History Expects the Sixth Seal in NYC (Revelation 6:12)

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.

According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.

A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.

Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.

There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.

There’s another fault line on Dyckman St. and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.

“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.

He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”

“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.

Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.

The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

Antichrist’s Men Driving U.S. from Iraq

Iran-backed militias work to drive U.S. from Iraq

Islamic State jihadis holed up in caves wait for opportunity to revive terrorism

By Adam Lucente — Special to The Washington Times

MULLA QARAH, Iraq — The crisscrossing agendas facing Iraq — pressured by the U.S. and Iran while trying to set up a functioning government in Baghdad and preventing a revival of the Islamist terrorism that nearly broke the country apart — were on stark display during a nighttime skirmish this month.

Soldiers from the Popular Mobilization Forces — largely Shiite Muslim militias strongly backed by Tehran — were traveling from Mosul to Kirkuk when Islamic State militants attacked their convoy near the disputed Iraqi-Kurdish city of Makhmour. Six died, and 31 people from the predominantly ethnic Turkmen unit were injured in the shooting.

After the attack, forces near Makhmour asked the U.S.-led coalition to bomb Qarachokh mountain, where the Islamic State fighters hide in caves between Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s military bases. The coalition bombed later that night, said Col. Srud Barzanji, who commands Kurdish peshmerga soldiers in Mulla Qarah, near Makhmour.

Like many of Iraq’s Kurds, Col. Barzanji thinks the U.S. military should stay in the country to help fight the Islamic State, which is taking another look at its sanctuaries in Iraq as the last remnants of its “caliphate” in neighboring Syria fall to the U.S. and its allies.

“To leave would be to make the same mistake Obama did in 2011,” he told The Washington Times from his base, surrounded by suicide trucks taken from Islamic State forces.

But the U.S. military presence in Iraq is not universally welcomed. The pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) group is emerging as perhaps the loudest voice arguing that it is time for the Americans to go home. Iraqi media outlets have reported numerous calls from the militias for the U.S. to leave.

Members of the PMF and their political allies in the Iraqi parliament are also said to be spreading conspiracy theories that the Trump administration is helping the Islamic State inside Iraq as a way to justify the U.S. military presence. Just as Islamic State militants are attempting to reassert themselves in remote majority Sunni areas of Iraq, the PMF is stepping up its quest to expel U.S. forces from the country.

‘Ideological reasons’

It’s an intriguing turn of events. The PMF militias formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State, which had just captured large swaths of Iraqi territory and major cities such as Ramadi, Mosul and Fallujah. PMF fighters are predominantly Shiite Muslims and have received logistical and material support from Iran. Although Sunni Muslim, Christian, Yazidi and other faiths are represented in their ranks, many see the militias as a virtual arm of Iran inside Iraq.

The PMF formally became part of the Iraqi national security forces in late 2016, but many militia members credit Iran for supplying critical weaponry and military training in the long, successful fight to oust the Islamic State.

Complicating the picture, parties tied to the PMF are now part of the federal government and have political clout. They make up much of the Fatah Alliance, which came in second in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year. The militias maintain presences in many Iraqi cities, including predominantly Sunni Muslim areas such as Mosul.

PMF leaders have repeatedly called on the U.S. military to leave Iraq. On March 10, a Fatah Alliance lawmaker implored the prime minister to “put a serious end to the presence of American forces inside Iraqi lands,” according to Iraqi outlet Hatha al-Youm.

The U.S. presence received new prominence in December when President Trump announced plans — since modified — to remove all U.S. forces from Syria as the fight against the Islamic State was winding but to keep the roughly 5,000 American troops in Iraq. Mr. Trump sparked a furor in Baghdad when he justified the move in part by saying he wanted U.S. troops in Iraq so they could “watch” Iran.

Iraqi leaders were determined not to be pulled into the bitter struggle between the U.S. and Iran.

“Don’t overburden Iraq with your own issues,” Iraqi President Barham Salih, a Kurd, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comments. “The U.S. is a major power … but do not pursue your own policy priorities. We live here.”

Iraq’s efforts to balance Washington and Tehran were on display again this week with a three-day official visit of Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani, which included a rare meeting Wednesday with powerful Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. With the Trump administration on a full-court press to isolate the regime in Tehran, the point of Mr. Rouhani’s visit was unmistakable.

“This visit seeks to send a message to the United States of America that Iran is still effective in Iraqi politics,” Ali Fadlallah, an Iraqi political analyst, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s allies in Iraq, including the PMF, have been quick to seize on Mr. Trump’s comments.

After reports of a U.S. military patrol in Mosul in February, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces said they warned the U.S. against carrying out such acts near them in the future. On March 10, a Fatah Alliance member of parliament said, “We will not allow the U.S. to control Iraq, even if it costs us our necks,” according to Iraq News Inc.

Members of the militias and their allies have repeated widespread conspiracy theories that Washington is helping the Islamic State in order to justify the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

In February, a member of the Al-Sadiqoun Bloc told the Iranian government Al-Alam News Network that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was holed up in the desert of western Anbar province under U.S. protection. The bloc’s military wing is Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which forms part of the PMF.

“The United States is preparing to create a new terrorist organization in Iraq to facilitate its interest in its troops staying in the country,” Awas al-Khafaji told Baghdad Today.

A Popular Mobilization Forces spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Other Iraqi politicians who have criticized the presence of U.S. troops include allies of Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery nationalist leader whose Shiite militias fought the U.S. after the 2003 invasion. Mr. al-Sadr’s Sairoon electoral list won the largest single bloc of seats in parliament in May elections, although he has expressed equal skepticism about excessive Iranian and U.S. interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The PMF is likely to remain potent in the Iraqi domestic debate opposing a U.S. military presence, even with the resurgent Islamic State threats, one analyst in Baghdad said.

The PMF “won’t change its view on the Americans for ideological reasons,” Diyari Salih, a frequent guest on Iraqi political news shows, said in an interview. “It considers [the Islamic State] the hands of the Americans, there to balance its role in the region and create … Sunni-Shia conflict.”

The frequent criticisms of U.S. forces have prompted the Iraqi government to explain that international coalition airstrikes in the country must obtain government permission.

Ongoing operations

The political wrangling is intensifying even as security analysts warn that the threat from the Islamic State is poised to expand.

Islamic State fighters are entering Iraq from Syria through the vast desert region along the countries’ border. Baghdad declared victory over the Islamic State in December 2017 when the extremist group lost all of its territory, including Mosul during a bloody siege. But even Iraqi military officials say the threat has not disappeared.

“There are [Islamic State] remnants who have a presence in the mountains. They’re surrounded by our forces,” Iraqi army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told The Washington Times.

The terrorist group has a continued, albeit limited, ability to strike in the country, he said.

“They try from time to time to do attacks here and there,” said Gen. Rasool. “Operations are still ongoing. We’re following and monitoring these terrorist movements.”

Having lost its once-extensive territorial base, the Islamic State has also resorted to threatening and attacking inhabitants of areas it once controlled, said Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

“People are receiving different messages and calls from unknown numbers telling people not to cooperate with the state,” Mr. Ali Albayati said. “There are even some examples of killings and assassinations happening in different areas.”

Iraq is a significantly safer place today than it was in 2014, at the height of the Islamic State offensive. Iraq began building a security fence along its border with Syria last year. The Islamic State still has strength in the disputed areas that Kurds see as part of their semiautonomous region.

In 2014, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters moved into disputed areas, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, even as the Iraqi national army was in full retreat in the face of Islamic State offensives. After the Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017, however, the Iraqi army and PMF reclaimed control of Kirkuk, Makhmour and the other disputed areas.

The result has been inadequate security and increasing Islamic State attacks in the disputed territories. Attacks in Kirkuk were at an all-time high in October, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Pressure to stay

Not everyone in Iraq wants the U.S. and other foreign forces to leave. Peshmerga soldiers often praise the international coalition’s contributions in the fight against the Islamic State. The Iraqi military likewise believes that working alongside the international coalition still has value, even with the greatly diminished threat from the Islamic State.

“We still need coordination with the coalition and their help,” said Gen. Rasul.

The commander noted that the Americans are just one of many international militaries in Iraq, and operate under Iraqi authority.

“There’s an international coalition, and the Americans are working with Iraqi forces inside Iraqi bases,” said Gen. Rasool. “There is coordination with their movements and airstrikes, and the coalition presence is approved by the Iraqi government.”

The Trump administration is clearly focused on the rising influence of the Iran-linked militia movements inside Iraq. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a list of a dozen demands the U.S. has given Tehran in the wake of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal last year from the Iran nuclear deal, included a proviso that the Islamic republic “must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.”

This month, the U.S. government officially designated Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba — the Movement of the Noble of the Party of God — as a terrorist organization and Iranian proxy group and announced Treasury Department sanctions on the group and its leader.

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia leader Qais al-Khazali said in January that he expects the Iraqi parliament to vote on the status of U.S. forces soon, and the security and defense committee asked parliament Tuesday to vote on the status of U.S. forces. It’s unclear whether Mr. al-Khazali’s group and the other units of the PMF will directly attack Americans or simply continue their threats in the media.

David M. Witty, a former U.S. Army colonel who advised the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, said he does not think the U.S. military and the Popular Mobilization Forces will clash directly.

“I think it’s mainly just rhetoric,” Col. Witty said in an interview. “There’s not a consensus among Iraqi politicians on the U.S. presence.”

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On the Brink of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

The Standoff In Kashmir: India And Pakistan Are On The Brink Again – Analysis

Vincent LofasoMarch 14, 2019

Indian Air Force. Photo Credit: Indian Air Force

Indian-administered Kashmir suffered its deadliest attack in nearly three decades on February 12 when a suicide bombing killed 40 Indian paramilitary personnel in Pulwama. Although the assailant was a Kashmiri native, the attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is a Pakistan-based militant group with close ties to the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). For New Delhi, this was enough to put the blame firmly on Islamabad. Immediately after the attack, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed for revenge by retaliating with increasing tariffs on Pakistani imports and announced to restrict the flow of water to downstream Pakistan.

India’s Air Force bombed a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan, and the planes struck an alleged militant facility deep inside Pakistani territory with India claiming that hundreds of militants were killed. However, satellite imagery raises doubts on whether the Indian airstrikes truly hit their target and the official Spokesperson of the Pakistani military claimed on Twitter that a prompt Pakistani response forced the Indian pilots to ditch their payload and retreat. Upon further examination, the Indian jets used sophisticated precision-guided bombs of Israeli origin.

These munitions were specifically designed with a small error probability, meaning that half of the strikes would have hit their targets. Since the missiles caused no damage, there are two possibilities for what truly occurred. Either an error in the targeting process caused the strikes to fail or India’s airstrikes were designed to demonstrate military capability while managing escalation by not targeting areas of interest. Whichever scenario is true, the assault was the most significant breach of the Line of Control since 1971.

In response, Pakistan sent their own jets to bomb targets in Kashmir and these airstrikes also hit empty fields as a demonstration of military capability. Once more is that in the ensuing air battle, both sides shot down the other’s aircraft and Pakistan captured an Indian pilot. At the same time, lawmakers and media outlets from both sides deliberately spread misinformation and built up the prospects of a military victory. The only voice of reason came from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who quickly deescalated the conflict by returning the captured Indian pilot.

Unfortunately, fighting resumed overnight with gunfire being exchanged along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Pakistan has a long history of backing militants who mounted deadly attacks in India (most notably was the Mumbai attack in 2008 which killed around 165 people), and policymakers in Islamabad promised to shut down such extremist militants, but never did.

At the background of the stalemate is a nuclear shadow. In the last major skirmish in 1999 (also known as the Kargil Conflict), Pakistan and India possessed nuclear weapons, but lacked proper delivery systems. Today however, it is estimated that India has around 130-140 warheads while Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal includes around 140-150 warheads. Each side wields a batch of matching missiles, but Pakistan has also developed tactical nuclear weapons with a range of 70 kilometers which can be used against Indian ground forces. Essentially, the tactical nuclear weapons grant Islamabad an edge in the military stalemate which in turn forms the basis of Pakistan’s deterrence doctrine.

Meanwhile in India, a rival military doctrine known as the Cold Start shapes the narrative. Cold Start was developed in response to the 2008 Mumbai attack, and it is essentially an Indian version of blitzkrieg where the Army, Navy, and Air Force would attack simultaneously and swiftly take control of strategic posts in Pakistan thereby forcing Islamabad to concede defeat. The trick is to launch the assault in limited, but rapid progression as not to push Pakistan over the edge and provoke a full-scale retaliation. The trouble with this plan is that Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons further lowers its retaliation threshold. Set against the backdrop of the recent skirmish, India has two distinct objectives. One being strategic and the other political.

From a strategic angle, the Indian airstrike was intended to set a precedent to demonstrate that New Delhi had the capacity to escalate the crisis if it wanted to. Had this succeeded, it would have proven that India’s conventional forces had the upper hand. This would have also reinforced India’s Cold Start doctrine, but it would have changed the dynamics of the Kashmir conflict and grant Indian policy makers a proactive template to respond to Pakistan-based militant groups in the future. With that said, Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes undermine the strategic goal of its archrival and further reinforced Islamabad’s deterrence creed.

From a political angle, the consequences of this skirmish are more upfront. For decades, Modi has carefully crafted the persona as a bold, resolute leader who does not back down from a fight. The return of the Indian pilot by Pakistan has made it difficult for Prime Minister Modi to spin this as a victory, given that he faces an election next month. Even before the standoff in Kashmir, Indian opposition parties have joined their numbers to pose a credible challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Now with only a month to go before the general elections, Modi will find it difficult to go campaigning while having failed to secure a decisive military victory. In a way, Modi is a captive of his own rhetoric and this shapes a great deal of his policies.

Moreover, over the past five years, Modi has failed to bring about promises of prosperity and growth. In retrospect, the Indian economy has grown by 7 percent annually and Modi’s efforts have delivered the nationwide goods and services tax. However, there are not enough jobs being created and unemployment has risen during Modi’s tenure. Meanwhile, the renowned goods and services tax has proven to be strikingly expensive to maintain. Modi has also failed to privatize state-owned firms and banks, and as the election draws closer, the Prime Minister has also implemented policies with brief, temporary benefits that are likely to harm the economy in the distant future. Modi’s economic promises have not lived up to the hype.

Thus, considering the military, economic, and political applications, what happened most likely in Kashmir was that Prime Minister Modi, under pressure by the upcoming elections, decided to act in retaliation to the latest suicide bombing in Kashmir. However, Modi had to balance domestic public approval with the risk of a military confrontation that would have been costly for both countries. As such, bombing an empty field in Pakistan while claiming victory made sense. With the general elections closing in, the Indian Prime Minister has political incentives to push for an extended crisis and rally around his base.

With all things considered, a resolution to the India-Pakistan standoff in Kashmir is likely to remain elusive. In the long run, military leaders in Islamabad will have to end their support to militant groups, and there is little evidence that such a narrative is being considered since there is no global pressure on Pakistan to do so. In the short term, the Indian Prime Minister shares the responsibility to stop an escalation between two nuclear powers. The issue is that Modi has made a critical error of playing with fire. Evidence of this can be traced to 2002 when he made no effort to stop the ethnoreligious riots in Gujarat, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds, as well as his own political rise to power. Even so in the military standoff with Pakistan, the stakes are considerably higher and an error in judgement could spell calamity.

A final consideration is that the Indian government must recognize that it has a Kashmir problem, which in turn, encourages Pakistani involvement. To put things into perspective, Prime Minister Modi suspended the locally elected government of Kashmir and used force to suppress protests there leading to civilian casualties. Not surprisingly, tensions have been high ever since. Yet, the result of the tinder box that is Kashmir was the suicide attack that was carried out by a homegrown militant. In this fashion, by neglecting the Kashmiri grievances and frustrations, as well as violating their human and civil rights, such suicide bombings are likely to occur from time to time. As a result, airstrikes will bring no peace to the region.

Two Rockets Fired From Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

2 rockets from Gaza targeted Tel Aviv. Israel is likely to respond forcefully.

After a failed rocket attack on the major city, conflict between Israel and Gaza could get worse.

Alex WardMar 14, 2019, 4:55pm EDT

A photo taken on February 12, 2019, shows an Israeli naval Iron Dome defense system installed on an Israeli ship.

Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Tensions between Israel and Gaza — already extremely high — may grow even higher in the coming hours.

On Thursday, two long-range rockets fired from Gaza streaked toward Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s largest cities. And although no casualties or property damage have been reported so far, Israel is likely to respond forcefully.

Which means an already roiling crisis in the Middle East is likely to deepen.

Red alert sirens indicating incoming rockets sounded in Tel Aviv indicating the first time that the city was a target since 2014. That year, Israel and Gaza engaged in brutal, weeks-long fighting. The Israeli military said its missile defense system, Iron Dome, was launched to intercept the rockets, although it’s unclear if an interception actually took place. The video below shows Iron Dome interceptors flying through the night sky over Tel Aviv, but they self-destructed because an interception was unnecessary.

One Israeli journalist tweeted that he was sitting in his living room when “suddenly” there were sirens and “sounds of explosion.” Tel Aviv has opened bomb shelters for citizens to use overnight.

The question now is what happens next. The answer, depressingly, seems pretty clear: retaliation.

Israel will surely hit back — hard

It’s unclear who, exactly, was behind the rocket attack. But since it came from Gaza, the territory will be in Israel’s crosshairs over the coming hours.

Israel has conducted airstrikes in Gaza in recent months because Hamas — a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has waged war on Israel since the group’s 1987 founding and ruled Gaza since 2007 — keeps shooting short-range rockets into the nation’s south.

Last November, the two sides engaged in days of fighting that saw fighters and civilians on both sides die.

But a long-range rocket attack on Tel Aviv is a serious escalation, which means groups in Gaza — like Hamas — may be trying to send a message, according to Neri Zilber, a Middle East expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.

He told me that militants in Gaza may have decided to launch the rockets to deflect popular anger directed at Hamas leaders in Gaza as well as to regain the attention of international actors, including Israel, to work on potential reconciliation.

Peace, though, seems very, very far away right now. Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who faces a tough reelection battle in April — only has incentives to strike back.

“Netanyahu will respond, but will likely respond within reason,” Zilber said. That means the prime minister may still authorize dozens or more airstrikes, but the Israeli military will likely strike important but largely empty targets like command centers, headquarters, and training grounds for militants in Gaza.

Should Israel end up killing scores of Palestinians or hit occupied buildings, it could signal a new phase in Israel’s response to rocket attacks. And if that’s the case, we may see more intensive fighting between the two sides over the next few days.

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

US Wants to Swiftly Bring Iranian Crude Oil Exports to Zero

Thursday, 14 March, 2019 – 07:00
FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, Poland February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Washington – Heba El Koudsy
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stressed Washington’s commitment to swiftly bring Iranian crude oil exports to zero, saying Tehran’s role in the energy market has been diminishing due to US pressure.

Washington reimposed oil sanctions on Iran last year, sharply reducing its volume of crude exports in the past several months in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear, missile and regional activities.

“We’re committed to bringing Iranian crude oil exports to zero as quickly as market conditions will permit,” Pompeo said in a speech at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, where US oil and gas executives, energy luminaries and officials of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gather annually to discuss global energy development.

“You know its role in global energy markets. We know that role is diminishing. Its exports have tanked due to our pressure campaign,” he said.

Iran uses its energy exports to exert undue influence all across the Middle East, most particularly today on Iraq. While the United States is working to develop an independent, sovereign Iraq, Iran is using its energy to create a vassal state,” Pompeo added.

Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative on Iran, also said in remarks at the CERAWeek energy conference that Iran has lost $10 billion in revenue since US sanctions in November have removed about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude from global markets.

Trump “has made it very clear that we need to have a campaign of maximum economic pressure” on Iran, Hook said, “but he also doesn’t want to shock oil markets, he wants to ensure a stable and well-supplied oil market. That policy has not changed.”

“When you have a better supplied oil market it enables us to accelerate our path to zero. But we also know that there are a lot of variables that go into a well-supplied and stable oil market,” said Hook, a senior policy adviser to Pompeo.

Sigal Mandelker, US Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, briefed the House Committee on Appropriations on the establishment of the Iran Finance Fusion Cell to monitor Tehran’s activities.

“Last November, we re-imposed all of the US sanctions authorities previously lifted under the Iran nuclear agreement, and added over 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels onto our sanctions list on a single day. As part of that, we designated 70 Iran-linked financial institutions and subsidiaries. This brings the total number of Iran-related sanctions targets under this Administration to 927 entities, individuals, vessels, and aircraft,” she said.