Another Palestinian Dies Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinian shot by Israeli soldier during Gaza protest dies from wounds

The New Arab & agencies

Protests have been held every Friday on the Gaza border [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 February, 2019

A protest on the Gaza border last week has seen a Palestinian killed by an Israeli soldier.

A Palestinian who was shot by Israeli soldiers during a protest on the Gaza border earlier this week has died from gunshot wounds, the enclave’s health ministry said on Sunday.

Ahmed Abu Jamal, 30, was wounded after being shot in Beit Lahiya in the north of Gaza on 29 January, a health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

More than 30 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire Friday.

Weekly protests on the Gaza border have seen Israeli troops firing into crowds killing at least 247 Palestinians and severely injuring hundreds.

Protests began in March as residents demanded an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and the right for Palestinians to return to their homes lost since Israel’s creation in 1948.

At least 247 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since March 30, the majority during border protests but also by tank fire and air strikes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed during the same period.

Gaza’s humanitarian situation has steadily worsened with homes and infrastructure – such as schools and hospitals – still not repaired following Israel’s brutal war against Hamas in the land strip in 2014 which left over 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

Between 15 to 28 January, Israel killed three Palestinians – including a minor – and demolished 20 Palestinian-owned buildings in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Maan news and the UN.

Iran Is Trump’s Iraq

Trump Is Doing the Same Thing on Iran That George W. Bush Did on Iraq

Jonathan Chait@jonathanchait10:30 A.M.

National Security Adviser John Bolton with President Trump. Photo: Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Last week, intelligence officials testified publicly that Iran has not resumed its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. The next day, President Trump called these officials “extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” and advised, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

The first-blush response to this presidential outburst was to dump it in the same category as Trump’s other public eruption against members of his government who undercut his preferred narratives with inconvenient facts. That response is probably correct: this Trump tantrum is probably like all the other Trump tantrums. But there is another possible meaning to this episode: Trump’s rejection of intelligence assessments of Iran’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities eerily echoes the Bush administration’s rejection of Iraq’s WMD capabilities a decade and a half earlier.

Shortly after their testimony, the intelligence officials were summoned to the Oval office for a photographed session in which they publicly smoothed over their breach with the president, and (according to Trump) assured him that their remarks had been misconstrued, despite having been delivered in public and broadcast in their entirety. Yet Trump’s interview broadcast Sunday with Margaret Brennan on CBS made clear how little little headway they made in regaining his trust.

Trump told Brennan he plans to maintain troops in Iraq because, “I want to be able to watch Iran … We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.” But would he accept the assessments that he received? No, Trump replied, he wouldn’t.

His reason for rejecting this intelligence was consistent. Trump is unable to separate the question, Do I like Iran’s government and its foreign policy? from the question Is Iran building a nuclear weapon? Tell Trump that Iran is abiding by its nuclear commitment, and what he hears you saying is, “Iran is a lovely state run by wonderful people.”

If that account of Trump’s thinking sounds too simplistic, just look at his answers:

I’m not going to stop [intelligence officials] from testifying. They said they were mischaracterized — maybe they were maybe they weren’t, I don’t really know — but I can tell you this, I want them to have their own opinion and I want them to give me their opinion. But, when I look at Iran, I look at Iran as a nation that has caused tremendous problems …

My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them 100 percent. It is a vicious country that kills many people …

So when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is — if you don’t mind, I’m going to just go by my own counsel.

In fact, intelligence officials did not deny Iran has caused problems. They simply asserted facts about its nuclear weapons. Trump cannot hear those facts without translating it into Iran being comprehensively “wonderful.”

Even more remarkably, Trump explained that intelligence assessments could not be trusted because they had failed in the run-up to the Iraq war:

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to move on here but I should say your intel chiefs do say Iran’s abiding by that nuclear deal. I know you think it’s a bad deal, but—

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I disagree with them. I’m — I’m — by the way—

MARGARET BRENNAN: You disagree with that assessment?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: —I have intel people, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree. President Bush had intel people that said Saddam Hussein—

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: —in Iraq had nuclear weapons — had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? Those intel people didn’t know what the hell they were doing, and they got us tied up in a war that we should have never been in.

Trump’s understanding of this history is almost perfectly backwards. U.S. intelligence officials never said Iraq “had nuclear weapons,” or even anything close to that. They did overstate Iraqi weapons capabilities. But — crucially — the Bush administration also pressured intelligence agencies to inflate their findings, as John Judis and Spencer Ackerman reported in 2003, and administration officials overstated the intelligence that was produced, as the Senate Intelligence Committee found in 2008.

The backdrop to this episode does have some important differences with the current moment. The Bush administration had been plunged into an adrenal panic by the 9/11 attacks. Its rush toward war was largely choreographed by Dick Cheney, a skilled bureaucratic operator, and enjoyed broad public legitimacy created by the national unity bestowed upon Bush by the surprise attack. None of these conditions apply to the easily distracted, childlike, and deeply unpopular sitting president.

And while Cheney has departed the scene, National Security Council director John Bolton has assumed a somewhat parallel role. An ultrahawk with a long record of punishing subordinates who undermine the factual basis for his preferred policies, Bolton has emerged as Trump’s most influential foreign policy adviser. Bolton in 2015 insisted that Iran was racing toward a nuclear weapon. (“Even absent palpable proof, like a nuclear test, Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident.”) He likewise concluded that diplomacy could never work (“The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program”) and that “only military action” could stop it.

As Trump has grown alienated from his national security apparatus, Bolton appears to be the one remaining official who has retained a measure of his trust. And while he may not have a Cheney-like ability to manipulate the president, Bolton does benefit from a near vacuum in rival power sources.

Other parallels leap out between Trump’s view of Iran and Bush’s view of Iraq. Bush and Cheney rejected skeptical intelligence about Iraq’s weapons in part because, like Trump with Iran, they conflated their assessment of Iraq’s overall foreign policy behavior with its weapons capability. They assumed that a dictator who had repeatedly attacked his neighbors must be intent on weapons of mass destruction. Like Trump, they nurtured their thinking in a conservative movement bubble that dismissed bureaucratic expertise as a biased liberal elite. They couldn’t distinguish their strategic goals from the facts that might be brought to bear upon them.

Trump’s apparent conclusion from Bush’s Iraq debacle is that a president who has a gut-level suspicion of a Middle Eastern regional power should disregard all intelligence that complicates his hawkish impulses. If there is any chance history repeats itself, it is because Trump has turned the lesson of history upside down.

The Iraqi Horn is Angered by Trump

Iraq angered by Trump idea to watch Iran from US base

▪ 04 February 2019 Middle East

About 5,000 US troops are in Iraq to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh has rebuked Donald Trump over his comments that he wanted to maintain a US military presence there to watch Iran.

Mr Trump told CBS on Sunday he intended to keep an “incredible” base being used by US troops to combat the jihadist group Islamic State “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran”.

Mr Saleh said on Monday that the US had not asked Iraq’s permission to do so.

It should stick to fighting terrorism and not pursue other agendas, he added.

There are an 5,000 estimated US military personnel in Iraq authorised to train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces in their fight against IS, which has not fully controlled any territory in the country for more than a year.

In the CBS interview Mr Trump defended his recent decision to withdraw the 2,000 US troops deployed in neighbouring Syria to support a Kurdish-led militia alliance seeking to capture the last pocket of IS territory there.

He said the troops would soon be moving to the huge Al Asad Airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province and that their new tasks would include protecting Israel and keeping an eye on Iran, which his administration has accused of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and of wanting to acquire nuclear weapons.

“We spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it,” he said. “And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.”

When asked if the troops stationed in Iraq could be used to strike Iran, Mr Trump responded: “All I want to do is be able to watch.”

He added: “If there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.”

However, the remarks caused a stir in Iraq, which is a close ally of Iran.

“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” President Saleh told a forum in Baghdad on Monday. “The US is a major power… but do not pursue your own policy priorities. We live here.”

Mr Saleh noted that under 2008 US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, Washington had agreed not to use Iraq “as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries”.

He added: “Any action taken outside this framework is unacceptable.”

The BBC’s Paul Adams says this poses a problem for the government in Baghdad and could complicate delicate negotiations over US use of the Al Asad Airbase.

Those negotiations, he adds, have been based on the premise that Al Asad would be used to continue the fight against IS. It is something Mr Trump referred to when he visited the base in December.

But our correspondent says the US president’s latest references to Iran and the need to protect Israel point to a very different set of priorities, which is causing unease in Baghdad.

Iraqi politicians allied to Iran or the influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, a long-time adversary of the US who also opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, have for weeks been calling on the government to remove of all foreign troops from the country.

New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.

MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

Trump WILL Start a War With Iran

Joe Scarborough Says Trump Wants to ‘Start a War With Iran’

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough is not a foreign policy genius, but he attempts to play one on TV.  Less than one week after saying that Trump was turning over Syria to the Russians and the Iranians, the Morning Joe co-host flipped 180 degrees and said that Donald Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton want to invade Iran.

Morning Joe speculated last Wednesday that the reason behind Trump’s rhetoric and policy towards Russia is softer and more conciliatory than the intelligence chiefs, is because Vladimir Putin must have something on him.  Now, the reasoning behind Trump’s bucking of the intel chiefs is not because he is a foreign asset, but because he and Bolton are setting the stage for war with Iran.  Scarborough postulated that, “It really does seem like in the larger context here is that Donald Trump and John Bolton want to invade Iran.  They want to start a war with Iran and they’re very angry that his intel chiefs aren’t giving him the excuse.”

Former George W. Bush White House Aide and MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan at least attempted to provide some more sophisticated analysis and substantive criticism by citing how relations with Iraq would be affected if certain Iraqi factions believe that bases currently used by American forces against ISIS were to be used against Iran.  She did say that beating the war drums with Iran and echoing “Bolton’s MO” is something Trump feels he can go back to when he is under “any other kind of pressure.”

Foreign affairs can be a complicated business, but Morning Joe has a simple formula: anything that Trump does that is more dovish than what Morning Joe believes is proof he’s a foreign asset, while anything more hawkish is proof he’s a jingoistic warmonger.

Here is a transcript for the February 4 show:

6:03 AM ET

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well you know, it’s also so disturbing Alice that the President of the United States would suggest on national television that the intel chiefs, the CIA Director was suggesting the people running Iran were like kindergartners.  Her response to a question of were they abiding by the treaty was simple and strait forward, or the agreement?  The answer was a straightforward “Yes, they were.”  That was it.  It really does seem like in the larger context here is that Donald Trump and John Bolton want to invade Iran.  They want to start a war with Iran and they’re very angry that his intel chiefs aren’t giving him the excuse, which makes it very ironic that he brings up WMDs and Iraq, because there you had the intel chiefs saying “Yes, go ahead.  They have weapons of mass destruction.”  Now you have the intel chiefs saying “Hold back” and yet this President and John Bolton seem hell bent of provoking a war with Iran.

ELISE JORDAN: Well, Donald Trump seems to want to have the Iran war drum when he feels any other kind of pressure, he can go back to that and harken whatever Bolton’s MO is with you know, a more aggressive posture with Iran.  It’s quite scary actually and I think that it’s to the detriment of our strategy against ISIS and there’s been a lot of hysteria in my opinion over the Syria withdrawal just because we can reconstitute and attack ISIS from Iraq.  However, you look at what Donald Trump just said yesterday in the interview with Margaret Brennan and that’s going to make Iraqi political factions really anxious, especially Muqtada al-Sadr’s alliance and so they are not going to like this one bit and so if we want to stay in Iraq and we want to be able to use those bases, those air bases to go after ISIS than maybe Donald Trump needs to think about that in his diplomacy in the region.

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Trump Finally Gets Educated on the Shi’a Horn

Trump says he wants to keep troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran

Marisa Fernandez7 hours ago

President Trump told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview released Sunday that he wants to keep an unspecified number of U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch Iran,” calling it “a vicious country that kills many people.”

The backdrop: The nation’s top intelligence chiefs released an assessment last week stating that Iran had remained compliant with its nuclear deal and was not currently working to develop nuclear capabilities. Trump, who also advocated against “endless wars” in the “Face the Nation” interview, fired back on Twitter, calling his intelligence heads “extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran” and urging them to “go back to school!”