Middle East Worries about the Saudi Arabia Nuclear Horn

Middle East Worries about Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Project

Beirut, Apr 9 (Prensa Latina) Experts from the Middle East on Tuesday expressed concern about the Saudi nuclear project that is still outside the safeguards stipulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano made public that he asked Riyadh for its commitment to join the regulations to purchase fissionable material destined for his first atomic reactor.

Amano said that Saudi Arabia could import that material in late 2019 for a plant that is being built with Argentine assistance.

According to the IAEA chief, the Saudis were called upon to put in force an agreement, by virtue of which the agency can guarantee the peaceful nature of the project.

Saudi Arabia signed a small-scale protocol in 2005 that exempts countries with minimal or no nuclear programs from inspections.

Riyadh announced plans to invest about $80 billion USD in the construction of 16 nuclear power stations in the next two decades.

The project reportedly raises concerns about the risks of a race for nuclear weapon in the Middle East.


Trump’s Uber-idiots Set to Play with Iranian Fire

TEHRAN BLOG: Trump’s uber-hawks set to play with fire?

For those worried what a combination of uber-hawks Mike Pompeo and John Bolton with King of the Kakistocracy Donald Trump might eventually cook up in the Middle East, unsettling reports emerged in the US last week that the US State Department is expected to designate bogeyman Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation.

Former Under-Secretary of State and lead Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman got straight to the point when asked by Reuters what implications the move might have. “One might even suggest, since it’s hard to see why this is in our interest, if the president isn’t looking for a basis for a conflict,” Sherman responded. “The IRGC is already fully sanctioned and this escalation absolutely endangers our troops in the region.”

The news agency on April 5 cited three US officials as saying that Washington—which has never before labelled another country’s military as a terrorist group—might announce the move as early as April 8.

Vicious sanctions regime

So vicious and unparalleled is the US sanctions regime imposed against Iran last year that many analysts have long suspected that the White House is pushing for far more than a renegotiation of Iran’s role in the Middle East. They suspect that the likes of national security advisor Bolton and US secretary of state Pompeo won’t be happy until they see regime change. Whether some Trump administration officials truly believe that a hot war with Iran could be in the president’s interests, building up to his re-election campaign in 2020, is the question.

The decision to go after the IRGC in such an aggressive way could, if implemented, open US military and intelligence officials to similar actions by various unfriendly governments abroad.

Reuters said the Pentagon declined comment on the matter and referred queries to the State Department. The State Department and White House also declined to comment.

The administration’s decision to make the designation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC. The organisation as a whole, however, has not been designated. In 2007, the US Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, the unit in charge of the Guard’s operations abroad such as in Syria and Iraq. The designation was “for its support of terrorism” and for being Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”

Iran threatened “crushing” response

Iran has previously warned of a “crushing” response should the US make good on its threat to impose the designation.

IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said in 2017 that if Trump made the move, “then the Revolutionary Guard will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world”.

The weekend brought the first Iranian response to the reports that Trump is indeed about to give the go-ahead to designating the IRGC, a force that somewhat ironically and arguably played a bigger role in destroying Islamic State in Iraq than the US did (not mentioned by Trump in any of streams he uses when he is filled with the urge to defecate, as far as this blog is aware). Iranian MPs said they would prepare reciprocal action against the US, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on April 7.

“We will answer any action taken against [the IRGC] force with a reciprocal action,” a statement issued by 255 of the Iranian parliament’s 290 Iranian lawmakers said.

It added: “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the [Middle East] region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action.”

Iran-aligned Shi’ite militia

The idea to officially list the Guard as “terrorist” was mooted by US officials as far back as 2017. Iran responded that if the US made the categorisation it would see the US armed forces in the same light.

Such warnings are not to be taken lightly by US forces in places such as Iraq, where Iran-aligned Shi’ite militia are to be found in close proximity to US troops.

On April 7, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not commenting directly on the IRGC issue, advised Iraq that it should force the US military to leave the country “as soon as possible”.

His comments came following a meeting with Iraq’s visiting Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, who is under pressure from the US to cut ties with Iran in all sectors including energy and trade in general.

“You should take actions to make sure the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because wherever they have had an enduring presence, forcing them out has become problematic,” Khamenei told Abdel Mahdi.

“The current government and parliament in Iraq and the political figures are not what the US desires; they plot to remove them from the political scene of Iraq,” Khamenei said, according to his official website.

Protector of clerical system

The IRGC was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Its objective as Iran’s most powerful security organisation is to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system. It has control over large sectors of the Iranian economy—estimates on how much of Iran’s GDP its businesses are responsible for range into huge figures but are unconfirmed—and it has a big influence in the Iranian political system.

Boasting army, navy and air units and estimated as 125,000-strong, it answers directly to Khamenei.

The IRGC’s Quds Force, led by Major-General Qassem Soleimani (or Suleimani), has particularly upset Pompeo. He has often made direct criticisms of Soleimani. Previously, in 2017, when he was CIA director, Pompeo wrote to Soleimani and other Iranian leaders warning that the US would hold them accountable for any attacks on US interests in Iraq by forces under their control.

Last year, Pompeo said of Soleimani that he was responsible for the deaths of Americans in Syria and Iraq, remarking: “This is a man who has American blood on his hands. He’s killed American soldiers, and that’s not funny.”

Soleimani likens Trump to “nightclub owner”

In late July last year, Soleimani squared up to the US president in a speech, mocking the threats he had lately made to Iran on Twitter, likening him to a gambler and nightclub owner, deriding the performance of US armed forces in Afghanistan and warning that the Red Sea region was no longer secure for the American military.

He said Trump should know that the Islamic Republic would be the one to “end” any war between their two countries.

“I’m telling you, Mr Trump the gambler, I am telling you: know that where you are not thinking of, we are near you. Places you cannot imagine, we are next to you,” he added.

In further menacing words aimed at Trump, he said: “We, the Iranian nation, have gone through tough events. You may begin a war, but it is us who will end it. Go ask your predecessors about it. So stop threatening us. We are ready to stand up against you. The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure for the presence of American [military]… The Quds force and I are your match. We don’t go to sleep at night before thinking about you.”

One Year of Trampling Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesA Palestinian waving flags as tear gas disperses from canisters fired by Israeli troops during a protest near Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, March 22, 2019

As I was driving from Jericho to Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, in early March, I noticed a large sign that Palestinians had set up in preparation for Land Day, on the thirtieth of the month. The sign showed the now ubiquitous Banksy print of a protester, with his nose and mouth covered, hurtling a bouquet of flowers—presumably in place of a Molotov cocktail—at an invisible oppressor. The drawing had been printed under one of the best-known lines by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:

On this Land, there is what makes life worth living.

The sign was, for me, an ominous warning. Land Day commemorates the 1976 killing by Israeli security forces of six Palestinian citizens as they demonstrated against the government’s expropriation of their land in the Galilee. The shootings marked a milestone in Palestinian collective memory: Israel’s readiness to use live fire against unarmed citizens (an event inconceivable had the protesters been Jewish) showed that Palestinians within Israel’s 1948 borders shared with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories subjection to such lethal repressive measures.

This year, Land Day coincides with the first anniversary of the Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip, which I wrote about for the Daily last year. There, too, a deep sense of foreboding prevails, even as organizers ambitiously plan for a “one million person” march. Since last March, according to the World Health Organization, Israel has killed more than 260 and injured nearly 6,400 Palestinians in Gaza using live fire. In all, more than 27,900 Palestinians have been injured over the course of the demonstrations through other crowd-dispersal tactics, including tear gas and rubber bullets. Nearly 150 people have been crippled, requiring amputations, or left paralyzed.

Only weeks ago, a UN Commission of Inquiry “found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” in dealing with these large-scale civilian protests. According to the UN investigation, Israeli snipers targeted, and continue to target, children, health workers, journalists, and disabled persons, most of whom were identifiable, and the vast majority of whom were unarmed and posed no security threat to Israel. One foreign journalist present at the demonstrations described Israel’s conduct toward protesters as “slow, methodical shooting.” Such assessments have been reinforced by video footage from the demonstrations and have been corroborated by reports from Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations.

As in the original Land Day protest decades earlier, albeit today on a far larger scale, Israel has again used lethal force on Palestinian civilians engaged in a struggle for rights. In Gaza’s bloody present, the conviction that peaceful protests are a celebration of life, symbolized by the sign outside Ramallah, appears almost naive. If anything, the experience of Gazans over the past fifty-two weeks has been a grim foreshadowing, and yet another reminder, of how easily popular mobilization is crushed and how staggering the cost is.

The 2018 Great March of Return began not as a Hamas-organized political operation but as a call from grassroots activists and ordinary inhabitants. Tens of thousands of residents of the Gaza Strip, a territory the size of the Philadelphia city-county area but with a far denser population of nearly two million, began congregating around the fence that separates Gaza from Israel and keeps Palestinians segregated there. Return marches, aiming to assert the right of Palestinian refugees to their original homes, have a long history, and have proliferated within the Palestinian diaspora in Syria and Lebanon, as well as inside Israel itself. At a time when the Palestinian national movement is particularly weak and fragmented, lifting the banner of return has offered a unifying framework that transcends political and geographic divisions, one rooted in the universal Palestinian demand for the right of return, as enshrined in UN Resolution 194, which was passed in 1948 and has since been regularly reaffirmed. For Israel, the demand for a Palestinian return en masse poses an existential threat to the state’s Jewish majority.

Other urgent matters propelled the 2018 protests. Most pressing were the desire and need to lift the stifling blockade on Gaza, now in its twelfth year. According to the UN’s assessment, Gaza will by next year be no longer fit for human habitation, thanks to the severe shortage of drinking water, the continuing energy crisis, and the high likelihood of a medical epidemic. Through large-scale peaceful demonstrations, Palestinians wanted to project Gaza’s image to the world, and compel the international community to take action to end their suffering. Many Gazans also marched to protest the policies of the Trump administration toward Palestinians. Particularly insulting, I was told by a senior NGO official in Gaza, were the US policies toward Palestinian refugees that culminated in the American defunding of the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA). For many Gazans, the services this agency provides make this a matter of life and death.

By most measures, a year on, the protests have failed to achieve their goals.

Gazans tell me of the sense of jubilation that prevailed this time last year. People of all political affiliations and from all social backgrounds joined in the marches, which were initially planned to end on May 15, marking the anniversary of al-Nakba, or “catastrophe,” that befell Palestinians with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The protests were peaceful and family members of all ages including women and children participated in a communal movement, which seemed to signal a hopeful shift away from Hamas’s militarization and toward a new politics of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. Palestinians elsewhere greeted the protests as an inspiration, an all-too-rare moment of courageous unity and solidarity, and a reaffirmation of Gazans’ image of themselves as providing the bedrock of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s continued occupation.

Before the protests had even begun, however, Israel took the line that these were “Hamas protests” and Israeli officials expressed concern that armed attackers might breach the fence and enter Israeli population centers. That pre-emptive framing prepared the way for Israel to use disproportionate force in response. On the first day, between 40,000 and 50,000 Palestinians congregated in areas near the fence that the protest’s organizing group, the Higher National Committee, which comprised representatives from different political factions, as well as civic leaders and human rights activists, had designated beforehand. Many described the initial atmosphere that day as “festive.” Within hours, Israeli snipers safely positioned on raised berms just beyond the buffer zone inside Gaza killed eighteen Palestinians and wounded 703 others with live ammunition; the youngest casualty was a two-your-old boy, with a head injury, the oldest was a seventy-one-year-old woman shot in the legs. The lack of any effective global reaction helped perpetuate a pattern of unarmed protesters’ meeting lethal excessive force, repeated on a weekly basis.

As the governing entity of the Gaza Strip, Hamas had endorsed the protests and provided logistical support for those coordinating the marches. The organization was also actively involved in the Higher Committee of the Protests. But as the UN investigation has found, the movement’s participation did not alter the character of the protests as civilian. Along with other political groups, Hamas adhered to and reinforced the demonstrators’ call for the protests to be unarmed. For the planned duration of the marches, from March 30 until after May 15, no rockets were fired by Hamas or other factions, despite Israel’s live-fire policy.

The power of Israel’s “Hamas narrative” is such that the mere fact of Hamas’s participation drew the accusation that these demonstrations were terrorist attacks that merited a military response. Israel’s use of the Hamas label neutralized for governments of the international community the David vs. Goliath image that has in the past been an effective public relations asset of popular uprisings, notably during the days of the First Intifada (1987–1991), which won global sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

As the numbers of Palestinian dead and injured mounted in Gaza, the already-deprived healthcare sector sagged under the weight of the casualties. But the nature of the marches also began to shift after the first six weeks: protesters adopted more confrontational tactics, using sling-shots, throwing stones, burning tires, cutting the barbed wire, and flying improvised incendiary devices on kites and balloons in an attempt to damage property and agricultural lands within Israel. The UN investigation concluded that these actions were, for the most part, unorganized and sporadic, and were not coordinated by Hamas or other organized groups. Still, the protests remained predominantly unarmed and widespread, and presented no discernible threat to Israeli civilians that might justify Israel’s live-fire policy.

Many refer to mid-May as a turning point. Several developments collided: the anniversary of al-Nakba, the official end of the protests, and the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem. On May 14, around 40,000 Palestinians in Gaza demonstrated against the embassy move. The Israeli military circulated a video in advance warning that “the Hamas terrorist organization plans to send armed terrorists among 250,000 violent rioters to swarm and breach Israel’s border with Gaza and enter Israeli communities… [Hamas] plans to carry out a massacre in Israel.” There was no evidence to support claims of violence even as protesters called for breaching the fence. Nevertheless, that day Israeli snipers killed some sixty Palestinian protestors and injured more than 1,100 through live fire, the largest death toll in a single day since 2014.

Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesSoldiers monitoring a Great March of Return protest from an Israeli military post overlooking the fence near Rafah, Gaza, March 22, 2019

After that Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller Islamist armed faction, reverted to the military tactics they had used against Israel over the past decade, after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. While the various factions had initially adopted a strategy of restraint, from May 15 Hamas began responding with rocket fire to Israel’s apparent determination to fire on civilians.

Some Gazans told me that they supported the Hamas decision, and there were many calls on social media at the time for Hamas to defend the front line from Israeli fire. Others spoke of their frustration that the protest movement became militarized by Hamas, and of their concern that this simply played into Israel’s security argument; and they voiced hurt at the thought of continuing to protest as sitting ducks in front of Israeli snipers. As retaliatory rocket fire from Hamas and other military groups against Israeli periphery communities around Gaza resumed, a tactic that is also deemed a war crime because of its indiscriminate nature, the protests diminished in size, with Palestinian youth setting off more incendiary balloons and kites and causing greater damage to nearby Israeli agricultural lands.

Hamas’s return to its military strategy risked moving the parties toward another escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip, until Egypt and the UN intervened to resuscitate indirect diplomatic channels between the parties and bring Israel to the negotiating table. Many Palestinians drew a depressing moral from this chain of events: where a popular movement had failed to engage the international community, Hamas’s military response increased the likelihood of ceasefire talks. That simply reinforced the view among Palestinians that Israel, and the international community, respond only to shows of force.

Hamas and Israel have remained in those talks since last summer, culminating in an indirect ceasefire agreement in November. Based on that agreement, Israel today allows Qatar to send humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip in return for Hamas maintaining military restraint and policing the Great March of Return protests. When Israel interrupts the lifeline of fuel and funding from Qatar, typically in response to the firing of rockets or other provocations associated with the protests, Hamas ratchets up the scale and the intensity of the marches to increase pressure on Israel. This dynamic reached a new peak of tension when Hamas fired rockets at the Tel Aviv area on March 14, reportedly by mistake on that occasion, and again on March 25, wounding seven Israelis, in an apparent bid to force on Israel to address the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

What thus started as a social movement with genuine grassroots support in Gaza, one year later risks being entirely subsumed into the nihilistic closed-loop system of episodic belligerence that characterizes relations between Israel and Hamas.

Hassan Jedi/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesNahi Alhwyty, a Gaza resident, responding to destruction caused by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for a Hamas rocket attack, Gaza City, March 26, 2019

There are Gazans today who celebrate Hamas’s ability to turn the protests into concessions from Israel. Yet there is also despair that, given the sacrifices, those gains have been minimal, and have come nowhere near the goal of lifting the blockade. There is also widespread resentment that Hamas coopted popular activism through its intervention. After aid flowed into Gaza in return for Hamas’s policing of the marches, Palestinians bitterly decried it as a “blood for money” deal, according to which the cash payouts  disproportionately benefited Hamas’s own factional interests. This growing resentment has gathered force in recent weeks after Hamas staged its own brutal crackdown against Gazans who were marching to protest economic misery in the Strip.

The jubilation that marked the early days of the marches last year, and the optimism that a popular uprising might offer an alternative to Hamas’s official policy of militarized resistance has given way to cynicism. Fewer Gazans join the front-line protests, and the marchers represent a narrower section of Palestinian society than they once did. Today, families try to prevent their children from going to the fence. Of the teenagers who went last year to seek glory and a sense of agency over their lives, many returned disabled and more deprived of hope than before; fewer see any point in taking their place. Such is the economic desperation many face, I learned, that a few are willing to contemplate the additional welfare income that might become their due if they were to suffer an amputation as a way to ease their families’ hardship.

Israel’s use of overwhelming force to respond to civilian protests is a familiar enough story for most Palestinians. So is the subjugation of popular action and social movements by Palestinian military-political factions, including not only Hamas but also the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization before that. But as Palestinians debate the virtues of shifting to a rights-based struggle that demands full equality from the river to the sea, Gaza’s present predicament shows how treacherous the path ahead is.

In the absence of an effective or unified Palestinian leadership, let alone a representative one, and amid a reshuffling of the regional and international order that has marginalized the Palestinian cause, many Palestinians feel that this is an increasingly vital debate. It is not only Gazans who risk defeat by the muzzling of popular protests. Forty-three years after the original Land Day marches in Israel, Palestinian citizens of Israel are facing more institutionalized discrimination than ever. The Nation State Bill passed last year affirms that only Jews have the right to self-determination within Israel. The codification of inferior status for Palestinians in Israel has been reiterated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently affirmed that Israel is “not a state of all its citizens,” before partly walking back his remarks—a strategy he has deployed in the past to speak to Israel’s hard right, without fully alienating more liberal supporters abroad. Even Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main, and more centrist, political rival in Israel’s upcoming legislative election, this month publicly ruled out any political alliance with Arab parties in the Knesset.

The rightward trajectory of Israel’s politics and the growing consensus behind Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank are unwittingly beginning to transform Palestinians, fragmented into territorial and political silos, into a single collective entity facing different aspects of the same oppressive power: an Israeli state that discriminates in favor of Jews over Palestinians across the entire land. The promise of widespread popular movement that challenges Israel’s hegemony is appealing, if frightening to some, and unrealistic to others. Many younger Palestinians are nonetheless taking inspiration from the legacies of the American Civil Rights movement and the South African anti-Apartheid struggle, as well as from their own long history of popular resistance. In this respect, the Great March of Return—though checked for now by the obstacles facing a people under occupation—is simply a staging post in the long struggle ahead.

Preparing for the War with Iran

US declares Iran’s guard force a ‘terrorist organization’


FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade marking the 36th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran. The Trump administration is preparing to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps a “foreign terrorist organization” in an unprecedented move that could have widespread implications for U.S. personnel and policy. U.S. Officials say an announcement could come as early as Monday, April 8, 2019, following a months-long escalation in the administration’s rhetoric against Iran. The move would be the first such designation by any U.S. administration of an entire foreign government entity. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization” in a move to increase pressure on the country that could also have significant military, diplomatic and economic implications throughout the Middle East and beyond.

It is the first time that the U.S. has designated a part of another government as a terrorist organization. The designation could spark Iranian retaliation as well as potentially open hundreds of foreign companies and business executives to U.S. travel bans and possible prosecution.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” President Donald Trump said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move is part of an effort to put “maximum pressure” on Iran to end its support for terrorist plots and militant activity that destabilizes the Middle East.

The designation blocks any assets that IRGC entities may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from any transactions with it. When it takes effect next week, it will allow the U.S. to deny entry to people found to have provided the Guard with “material support” or prosecute them for sanctions violations. Those could include European and Asian companies and businesspeople who deal with the Guard’s many affiliates.

“It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

Pompeo said the action should serve as a warning to corporate lawyers to ensure any business their companies do in Iran is not with any entity affiliated with the Guard.

The IRGC is a paramilitary organization formed in the wake of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend the government. The force answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, operates independently of the regular military and has vast economic interests across the country. The U.S. estimates it may control or have a significant influence over up to 50% of the Iranian economy, including non-military sectors like banking and shipping.

The State Department currently designates more than 60 organizations, including as al-Qaida and the Islamic State, Hezbollah and numerous militant Palestinian factions, as “foreign terrorist organizations.” But none of them is a state-run military.

Iran threatened to retaliate for the decision, and shortly after it was announced foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on President Hassan Rouhani to include Mideast-based U.S. forces on Iran’s own terrorist list, the official IRNA news agency reported. Zarif also sent a protest note over the U.S. designation to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which looks after the U.S. interests in Iran.

In addition to potential retaliation, the designation may also complicate U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East. No waivers or exceptions to the sanctions were announced, meaning U.S. troops and diplomats could be barred from contact with Iraqi or Lebanese authorities who interact with Guard officials or surrogates.

The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies had raised concerns about the impact of the designation if the move did not allow contact with foreign officials who may have met with or communicated with Guard personnel. Those concerns have in part dissuaded previous administrations from taking the step, which has been considered for more than a decade.

The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, and the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, said the decision was reached after consultation with agencies throughout the government but would not say in a news conference if the military or intelligence concerns had been addressed.

“Doing this will not impede our diplomacy,” Hook said.

Collusion of the Shi’a Horns (Daniel 8)

Iran, Iraq to jointly develop oilfields

April 9, 2019

Iranian and Iraqi officials met Sunday to discuss joint development of energy projects, Kallanish Energy learns.

The two countries agreed to cooperate on the Naft Shahr and Khorramshahr oilfields, establishing a partnership between Tehran’s Oil Industries Commissioning and Operation Co. (Oico) and ‘a similar company in Iraq’, according to a press release.

The two oilfields are located in Iranian territory, on the border with Iraq.

There are massive potentialities for expanding Iran-Iraq cooperation in oil, gas, refining and petrochemicals grounds, and Iran is ready to offer itself capabilities to the Iraqi oil industry,” said Iranian minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh.

“Given the lack of development in the petrochemicals and gas industries in Iraq, there is a bright perspective for cooperation between the two countries,” he added.

Iran is looking at linking its power and gas networks to Iraq’s, with further plans to expand partnerships with other countries in the region.

The two countries aim at reaching a trade volume of $20 billion in the coming months. At the moment, it sits at $12 billion, Reuters reported.

Both are OPEC members and Iran is the only exporter of natural gas to Iraq. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran’s exports in November, in response to the country’s nuclear program, although Iraq was granted a 90-day waiver last month.

Trump is Ignorant of Iran’s Long Reach

AP Explains: Long reach of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the Trump administration on Monday, evolved from a paramilitary, domestic security force with origins in the 1979 Islamic Revolution to a transnational force that has come to the aid of Tehran’s allies in the Mideast, from Syria and Lebanon to Iraq.

The force answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, operates independently of the regular military and has vast economic interests across the country.

Here are key things to know about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC:


The Revolutionary Guard was created in parallel to the country’s existing armed forces to consolidate power under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The following year, it was called upon to defend Iran and its clerical leadership in a ruinous war with Iraq that would last eight years and strengthen the guard’s ideological, economic and security footprint at home.

The group is estimated to have between 125,000 and 150,000 members today, but it’s unclear how many of those include the Quds Force, an elite wing of the IRGC that oversees foreign operations. The group, enshrined in the constitution, answers only to Iran’s supreme leader.



The IRGC oversees the country’s ballistic missile program and has conducted several tests since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. While the accord does not specifically ban those tests, U.S. officials have said they violate the spirit of the deal. President Donald Trump last year pulled America out of the deal and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran.

Additionally, the guard runs a massive construction company called Khatam al-Anbia, with 135,000 employees handling civil development, the oil industry and defense issues. Firms operated by the IRGC also build roads, man ports, run telecommunication networks and even offer laser eye surgery. The IRGC has deployed in rescue efforts during Iran’s recent devastating floods, which killed at least 70 people across the country.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year ordered the guard to loosen its hold on the economy and privatize some of its vast economic holdings. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has tried unsuccessfully to further restrict the group’s expansive powers at home.



The Revolutionary Guard recruits and trains thousands of fighters abroad through its Quds Force, headed by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a shadowy but prominent figure whose fighters have fought alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and against Islamic State militants who view Shiites as heretics.

U.S. officials say the IRGC under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use deadly roadside bombs against American troops after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a charge Iran denies.

The group also oversees the Basij, a volunteer force of several million that draws its members from among the poor, uneducated young men from rural areas and city outskirts. The Basij model has been exported abroad, with tens of thousands of Shiites recruited from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Iraq to fight in Tehran’s proxy wars in Syria and elsewhere.

One of those young Shiite men, who joined a wave of Afghans recruited and trained to fight in support of Assad’s government in Syria, recently spoke with The Associated Press about the experience, saying he was driven by poverty and not by ideology or loyalty to Iran.



The IRGC backs a number of Shiite militias across the Middle East, as well as the Fatimiyoun Brigade in Afghanistan. Chief among them is Hezbollah, the IRGC’s oldest and most experienced force in the region, established following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The militia, led by Hassan Nasrallah, publicly joined Syria’s civil war in mid-2013, securing a string of hard-won victories in defense of Syria’s Iranian-backed government.

IRGC-backed Iraqi militias also fought in Syria in support of Assad’s forces and against the Islamic State group in northern and central Iraq. Some of the armed groups in Iraq backed by Iran include the powerful Kataeb Hezbollah, Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

In Pakistan, the Zeinabiyoun Brigade is mostly comprised of Shiite fighters who have also fought in Syria. Many of the group’s fighters are trained and funded by IRGC.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels are also allied with Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and other countries have accused the guard of supplying the Houthis with long-range missiles, a charge it denies. A Saudi-led coalition, backed by the U.S. and Britain, has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015.

Iran and Iraq Prepare for Babylon the Great

Iran, Iraq forge ahead with collaboration amid US pressure

Hamidreza Azizi April 8, 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited Tehran April 6-7, his first official visit to the neighboring country since assuming office in October 2018. Accompanied by a large delegation of high-ranking Iraqi officials and representatives of the private sector, Abdul Mahdi came to Tehran at the formal invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Apart from meeting with Rouhani, the Iraqi leader also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and attended a joint meeting of the Iranian and Iraqi business sectors at the Iran Chamber of Commerce. The visit came less than a month after Rouhani’s visit to Iraq — the first by the Iranian president since taking office in 2013 — in which the two sides reached a number of important agreements, mostly on economic issues.

The increased frequency of high-level meetings between Iranian and Iraqi officials, as well as Abdul Mahdi’s busy schedule while in Tehran, sparked fresh discussion on the growing ties between the two neighbors. In fact, taking into account Abdul Mahdi’s agenda in Iran, as well as the regional and international circumstances surrounding the visit, it could be said that the visit was important from three main aspects.

First and foremost, the visit came amid increased pressure from the United States to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, giving the visit a symbolic aspect. Although the US administration agreed on March 20 to extend the sanctions waiver for Iraq, so it can import gas and electricity from Iran for a 90-day period, it has been pressuring Baghdad to eliminate its energy dependence on Tehran.

However, Iraq’s parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said March 30 that his country needs at least three years to become “economically independent.” Until then, Iraq needs to continue importing energy. Furthermore, Abdul Mahdi himself previously emphasized that his country is “not obliged” to abide by US sanctions against Iran. One of the main topics of discussion during both Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad and Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Tehran was how to bypass the sanctions in bilateral economic ties.

Apart from the sanctions, Washington has tried to dissuade Iraqi officials from expanding relations with the Islamic Republic by trying to depict Iran’s role in Iraq as negative and destructive. Following Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook claimed that Iran wants to turn Iraq into a province. Before Abdul Mahdi’s departure to Tehran, Hook said Iran was responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq.

Under such circumstances, Abdul Mahdi’s visit and his expressed willingness to develop ties with the Islamic Republic were interpreted by the Iranian media as signs of Baghdad’s indifference toward US positions. For instance, IRIB news agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s state broadcaster, wrote that Abdul Mahdi’s “visit to Iran has a special message for the United States.” Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri expressed the same view. During his meeting with Abdul Mahdi April 7, he said, “The clear message is that despite the American hostilities, Tehran and Baghdad are determined to comprehensively expand their ties.”

The diplomatic aspect of Abdul Mahdi’s visit was no less important. Two days before his trip, he hosted a high-ranking Saudi delegation, headed by Saudi Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi. The Saudi official was not only tasked with reopening the Saudi Consulate in Baghdad after nearly three decades of closure, but also with strengthening economic ties between the two countries, including providing Iraq with $1 billion in loans. The visit, a clear sign of Riyadh’s desire to initiate a rapprochement with Baghdad, was interpreted as being aimed at curbing Iran’s influence in Iraq. A

However, not only did the Saudi charm offensive not affect Abdul Mahdi’s bid for closer relations with the Islamic Republic, it apparently made him eager to play a mediating role between the two rivals. Upon the Iraqi leader’s arrival in Tehran, the media reported that an Iraqi mediation plan was to be presented to Tehran. According to media reports, the plan has been in the works since Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Egypt in March, and it will be discussed with Saudi officials during his visit to Riyadh next month.

Although the two sides have not confirmed those reports, Rouhani’s reference to regional issues in his joint press conference with Abdul Mahdi could indicate that they addressed the issue during their meeting. “The [situation of] the region was one of the issues discussed between the two sides,” Rouhani said, adding that “we have common viewpoints on many regional issues.” As such, it seems Baghdad is trying to build upon its current favorable relations with both Tehran and Riyadh to push them toward a compromise.

The third yet most important aspect of Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Tehran was the economic aspect. Economic issues dominated the visit, with both sides declaring a desire to enhance annual bilateral trade to $20 billion within the next three years. According to Reza Rahmani, the Iranian minister of industry, mines and trade, the two sides are also working on a free trade agreement. Separately, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced that the two sides would start working on the development of two shared oil fields. Media also reported that Iran’s central bank head Abdolnaser Hemmati will soon travel to Baghdad to personally oversee the implementation of financial agreements.

Given the current situation, with the United States determined to pursue a policy of imposing “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic through economic sanctions, Iraq’s approach of not giving in to the pressure, and thereby continuing its economic interactions with Iran, is of great significance to Tehran. Meanwhile, as both Iran and Saudi Arabia redefine their relations with Iraq, giving more weight to the economic aspect, the Iranian-Saudi rivalry could take on a geo-economic characteristic, gradually replacing the traditional geopolitical one. This, in turn, would further decrease the risk of an escalation between the two sides, while making it easier for Baghdad to pursue a balanced foreign policy toward its two powerful neighbors.

The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


Living on the Fault Line

A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”


Planning for the Big One

For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Updating Babylon the Great’s Nuclear Arsenal

Updating America’s Nuclear Arsenal for a New Age

April 8, 2019, 8:00 AM EDT

Destroyer of worlds.

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

More than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, nuclear war may be something to worry about. At the moment, tensions between India and Pakistan, North Korea’s small arsenal, Iran’s nuclear program, and the U.S. withdrawal from its treaty with Russia on intermediate-range nuclear missiles are all roiling the status quo of global security.

But the U.S. can best prepare for the next nuclear age by sticking with the two-pronged strategy that worked so well during the Cold War: deterrence combined with arms control. That means pursuing two seemingly contradictory goals: seeking to shrink the number of nuclear weapons around the globe, while simultaneously maintaining and improving a nuclear arsenal potent enough to dissuade adversaries from doing anything stupid.

The difference is that there are now three great powers involved. The U.S. needs to modernize its arsenal to counter rising threats from China and Russia, and pursue arms-control treaties with them both.

On the diplomatic side, President Trump should welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to extend the New START agreement, which drastically reduced overall U.S. and Russian arsenals but is set to expire in 2021. Eventually, China should be persuaded to join the pact. Though still well below the START limits, its arsenal is growing. And the U.S. should seek to renegotiate the abandoned Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty as a trilateral pact that also includes Beijing.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has much work to do to modernize its own nuclear-weapons systems. The military was helpfully promised upwards of $1 trillion over 30 years for the project.

The priority should be the submarine fleet, the leg of the U.S. nuclear triad that best combines stealth, mobility and accuracy. The Navy needs full funding to replace its aging Ohio-class ballistic-missile subs with the new Columbia class, scheduled to enter service in the early 2030s.

The ground-based leg of the triad consists of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground silos in the Great Plains. These would cause such vast damage, they would be useful only in the event of an existential crisis. Given this limitation, it makes little sense to entirely replace them. The Air Force should instead upgrade the Minuteman, and could cut its numbers considerably.

That leaves the air leg, which now depends on outdated stealth technology and archaic B-52 bombers. The Air Force is buying at least 100 B-21 Raiders, but unless this new long-range plane proves capable of penetrating ever-more-sophisticated air defenses, it won’t be more than a stopgap. Long term, the service needs to consider drones, air-launched missiles and other cutting-edge alternatives to manned planes.

At the same time, the Pentagon needs to upgrade the weapons themselves, placing a new emphasis on its stockpile of less-powerful tactical weapons that can be “dialed down” to lower yields. The enemy is more likely to fear that the U.S. will really use an atomic weapon if it is not as destructive as the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Russia has reportedly adopted a doctrine known as “escalate to de-escalate,” which involves using limited numbers of such lower-yield weapons to buy time in the event its conventional military finds itself overmatched by U.S. or Chinese troops. Of course, this approach gambles that there could be such a thing as limited nuclear war.

The Pentagon also needs to catch up with Russia and China in developing hypersonic glide missiles that can evade ground defenses after re-entering the atmosphere, and to work on missile defenses capable of destroying enemy vehicles at launch rather than in mid-course. To develop such a deterrent, the U.S. will first have to build a vast network of space-based detectors and greatly expand research on high-energy lasers.

Deterrence can be grim business, in that it involves building more deadly nuclear capacity. But this strategy has helped avert nuclear war between superpowers for decades. A 21st-century reboot should aim to do the same.

—Editors: Tobin Harshaw, Mary Duenwald.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg Opinion’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net .

Israeli Atrocities Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Ministry of Health in Gaza: Israeli occupation targeted Marches of Return with ‘lethal’ gas bombs

Palestinian demonstrators protest under tear gas canisters fired by Israeli forces during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 8, 2019. – Two Palestinians, including a teenager were killed by Israeli fire on Friday during clashes along the Gaza border, the health ministry in Hamas-run enclave said. Hassan Shalabi, 14, “was killed by Israeli occupation live fire to the chest east of Khan Yunis” in southern Gaza, the ministry said, as thousands of Palestinians again demonstrated along the border. The Israeli army declined to comment on the death, but said 6,700 “rioters and demonstrators” had been protesting along the frontier. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP / Getty)

April 9, 2019 at 3:35 am

Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said that the levels of injuries of people who arrived at the hospitals during the March of Return and breaking the siege reveal the occupation’s deliberate intentions in killing and mutilation.

Ashraf Al-Qudra, the ministry’s spokesperson, added: “The Israeli occupation forces’ use of lethal force against civilians in the east of Gaza Strip has resulted in the martyrdom of 271 citizens and the injury of 16,500 others.”

Al-Qudra revealed that the occupation had used different types of live bullets, in addition to unidentified and non-coded gas bombs that cause health repercussions for the injured people.

Al-Qudra stressed that the occupation has developed its repressive methods using metal and tear gas bombs as a tool for killing and maiming, which resulted in the death of 6 citizens, including four children, as well as the injury of dozens by various distortions.

The Ministry of Health called on the concerned authorities to monitor the Israeli occupation’s violations and use of lethal tools out of their standard characteristics.

Since 30 March 2018, Palestinians have been participating in peaceful marches near the fence separating the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories in 1948 to demand the return of the refugees to their towns and villages from which they were displaced in 1948, and the breaking of the imposed siege on Gaza.