The Ramapo: The Sixth Seal Fault Line (Revelation 6:12)

Image result for ramapo fault lineThe Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults 

 Map depicting the extent of the Ramapo Fault System in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region, but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone, which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage.Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

The Saudi Horn Becomes Involved in Iran (Daniel 7)

Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi state minister of foreign affairs, says the ball is in Iran’s court to determine its fate.

Saudi Arabia wants to avert war in the region but stands ready to respond with „all strength and determination“ after last week’s attacks on Saudi oil assets, a senior official said, adding that the ball was now in Iran’s court.

And Every Island Disappeared (Revelation 16:20)

Russia Has Begun Underwater Tests of Its Poseidon Thermonuclear Torpedo

What should we think? 

Russia has begun underwater tests of its Poseidon thermonuclear torpedo.

The Poseidon is an 80-foot-long nuclear-powered submersible robot that is essentially an underwater ICBM. It is designed to travel autonomously across thousands of miles, detonate outside an enemy coastal city, and destroy it by generating a tsunami.

„In the sea area protected from a potential enemy’s reconnaissance means, the underwater trials of the nuclear propulsion unit of the Poseidon drone are underway,“ an unnamed Russian defense official told the TASS news agency.

(This first appeared several months ago.)

The source also said the “the reactor is installed in the hull of the operating drone but the tests are being held as part of experimental design work rather than full-fledged sea trials at this stage.”

TASS also reports the Poseidon, — the name was chosen in a Web contest held by Russia’s Ministry of Defense – will be armed with a 2-megaton warhead. That’s more than enough to destroy a city. But that leaves the question of why Russia would choose to nuke an American city with an underwater drone – even one that allegedly travels 100 miles an hour – when an ICBM can do the job in 30 minutes.

Russia suggests the Poseidon is a retaliatory weapon that would revenge a U.S. first strike even if American missile defenses were capable of stopping hundreds of Russian ICBMs. But even in the unlikely event that the U.S. could intercept 500 or more Russian ballistic missiles, a delivery system that could take days or weeks to reach its target seems hardly an efficient deterrent.

More intriguing is the suggestion that Poseidon could be used against U.S. aircraft carriers. A very fast, nuclear-armed drone could prove difficult for American anti-submarine defenses to stop. In a March 2018 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin described his nation as being able to “move at great depths — I would say extreme depths — intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest. It is really fantastic. They are quiet, highly maneuverable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit. There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”

Putin added that Poseidon’s “nuclear power unit is unique for its small size while offering an amazing power-weight ratio. It is a hundred times smaller than the units that power modern submarines, but is still more powerful and can switch into combat mode, that is to say, reach maximum capacity, 200 times faster.”

Let’s also leave aside the question of why, if Russia really is that advanced in reactor design, its regular nuclear submarines aren’t so blessed. The puzzle is why a giant robot submarine would be needed to detonate a nuclear warhead near a U.S. aircraft carrier (presumably Poseidon is too expensive to waste by arming it with a mere high-explosive warhead). If the goal is to sink a U.S. carrier, couldn’t Russia saturate a carrier’s defenses with a volley of conventionally-armed hypersonic missiles like the Mach 5-plus Khinzal? And if nukes are being used, Russia has no shortage of missiles, bombs and aircraft to target American ships.

Whether Poseidon adds much to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces is doubtful. No less is doubtful is Poseidon the Carrier-Killer.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitterand Facebook.

Gaza Terrorists Fly Balloon Bomb From Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Gaza terrorists launch balloons loaded with flammable materials toward Israel during a night protest near the border with Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 19, 2019. 

Gaza Terrorists Fly Balloon Bomb into IDF Base

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90

An IDF base in southern Israel was balloon-bombed by Hamas terrorists on Saturday.

A cluster of balloons attached to an improvised incendiary device landed inside the military base.

Miraculously, none of the soldiers were inside the barracks at the time of the incident, and the explosive landed in an open area.

Military police from the bomb squad were called to the scene to neutralize the device. It was taken to a separate area to be defused safely.

According to Arab sources, the explosive was one of 30 such incendiary balloon devices that were sent into Israeli territory from Gaza during the Sabbath.

One Million Will Starve Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

One million face starvation in Gaza after U.S. cut aid to Palestine

5Pillars

More than a million people in Gaza are at risk of starvation in June unless international donors fill a $60m (£46m) funding gap manly caused by cuts to Palestinian refugee aid by the Trump administration, a UN agency has said.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is calling on the EU, the Gulf states and countries such as China and Russia to make “firm commitments” of $60m by the middle of June to prevent hunger.

Matthias Schmale, the director of the UNRWA’s operations in Gaza said: “We are in a critical situation in terms of our food delivery work.

“We have over a million people receiving quarterly food handouts and many of these people would not really survive without that every quarter.”

Speaking in Brussels to European officials, Schmale said “the most immediate reason” for the funding gap was the withdrawal of U.S. aid.

The U.S., which is the UNRWA’s largest donor, announced last year it was cutting all funding to the agency.

Schmale said: “What I hear a lot in Gaza is that the US, because of its perceived erratic behaviour, is no longer seen as a credible intermediary.

“The EU has perceived political capital [but] the EU member states are too preoccupied with themselves, so it is probably unrealistic to expect the EU to play a role.”

The UNRWA was created in 1949 to provide short-term relief for Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, runs hospitals, schools and social services in five areas including the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

We WILL end up killing each other (Revelation 16)

We will all end up killing each other and one nuclear blast could do it

Dr Philip Webber

The idea of humans blowing up the world sounds like a statement from an evil scientist but is it true? The answer is yes, unless we are very, very lucky.

The nuclear armed nations have inadvertently created a global Doomsday machine, built with 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Most (93%) have been built by Russia and in the US, 3,100 of them are ready to fire within hours.

Pre-programmed targets include main cities as well as a range of military and civilian targets across the world primarily in the UK, Europe, US, Russia and China but also in Japan, Australia and South America.

One nuclear blast, one mistake, one cyber attack could trigger it.

But first a reminder about the incredible destructive power of a nuclear weapon.

Modern nuclear warheads are typically 20 times larger than either of the two bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

What just one nuclear warhead can do is unimaginable. We’ve drawn some of the key features to scale against cityscapes in the UK for a Russian SS-18 RS 20V (NATO designation ‘Satan’) 500kT warhead. US submarines deploy a similar weapon – the Trident II Mk5, 475kT warhead.

Future of everything Nuclear blast scales
Most people in these areas would be killed or very seriously injured (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

A deafening, terrifying noise will be created, like an intense thunder that lasts for 10 seconds or longer.

After a blinding flash of light bright destroying the retina of anyone looking, and a violent electromagnetic pulse (EMP) knocking out electrical equipment several miles away, a bomb of this size quickly forms an incandescent fireball 850 metres across.

This is about the same height as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Drawn against the London Canary Wharf financial district or the Manchester skyline, the huge fireball dwarfs one Canary Sq. (240m), the South Tower Deansgate (201m) and the Beetham Tower Hilton, (170m).

The fireball engulfs both city centres completely, melting glass and steel and forms an intensely radioactive 60m deep crater zone of molten earth and debris.

A devastating supersonic blast wave flattens everything within a radius of two to three km, the entire Manchester centre, an area larger than the City of London, with lighter damage out to eight km.

Most people in these areas would be killed or very seriously injured.

The fireball quickly rises forming an enormous characteristic mushroom shaped cloud raining highly radioactive particles (fallout). It rises to 60,000 ft (18,000m) – twice the altitude of Everest – and is 15 miles, 24km across.

Future of everything Nuclear blast scales
A deafening, terrifying noise will be created, like an intense thunder that lasts for 10 seconds or longer (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

This is one warhead. There are 10 such warheads on each of Russia’s 46 missiles (460 in total) and 48 on each of eight US Trident submarines (384 in total). In reality, in a nuclear conflict all of these warheads and a further 956 ready-to-fire are likely to be launched.

Whilst this scale of destruction is horrific and hundreds of millions of people would be killed in a few hours from a combination of blast, radiation and huge fires, there are also terrible longer-term effects.

Scientists predict that huge city-wide firestorms combined with very the high-altitude debris clouds would severely reduce sunlight levels and disrupt the world’s climate for a decade causing drought, a prolonged winter, global famine and catastrophic impacts for all life on earth and in the seas due to intense levels of UV with the destruction of the ozone layer.

But even at the level of a few hundred nuclear warheads, the consequences of a nuclear war would be extremely severe across the world far beyond the areas hit directly.

A nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan with ‘only’ 100 small warheads would kill hundreds of millions and cause climate damage leading to a global famine.

The sheer destructive nature of nuclear explosions combined with long lasting radiation, means that nuclear weapons are of no military use.

‘Enemy’ territory would be unusable for years because of intense radiation – especially when nuclear power stations and reprocessing plants are hit.

Future of everything Nuclear blast scales
Such risks are heightened during political crises (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Even if your own country is not hit, radiation and climate damage will spread across the globe. No one escapes the consequences.

But the nuclear nations argue that they build and keep nuclear weapons to make sure that they are never used.

After all no one would be stupid enough to actually launch a nuclear weapon facing such terrible retaliation?

It sounds obvious. If you threaten any attacker with terrible nuclear devastation of course they won’t attack you.

That might be true most of the time. It is very unlikely that any country would launch a nuclear attack deliberately. But there are two very major problems.

First, a terrorist organisation with a nuclear weapon cannot be deterred in this way.

Secondly, there are several ways in which a nuclear war can start by mistake.

A report by the prestigious Chatham House in 2014 documents 30 instances between 1962 and 2002 when nuclear weapons came within minutes of being launched due to miscalculation, miscommunication, or technical errors.

What prevented their use on many of these occasions was the intervention of individuals who, against military orders, either refused to authorise a nuclear strike or relay information that would have led to launch.

Examples include a weather rocket launch mistaken for an attack on Russia, a US satellite misinterpreting sunlight reflecting off clouds as multiple missiles firings, a 42c chip fault creating a false warning of 220 missiles launched at the United States.

Such risks are heightened during political crises.

The risk of mistake is very high because, in a hangover from the Cold War, the USA and Russia each keep 900 warheads ready to fire in a few minutes, in a ‘launch on warning’ status, should a warning of nuclear attack come in.

These nuclear weapons form a dangerous nuclear stand-off – rather like two people holding guns to each other’s heads.

With only a few minutes to evaluate a warning of nuclear attack before warheads would strike, one mistake can trigger disaster. A similar nuclear stand-off exists between India and Pakistan.

There have also been recorded instances of a president being blind drunk, launch control staff taking drugs and even a murder with an assault rifle on a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine. And those are the cases that we know of.

A completely new risk is that of hacking or cyberwarfare creating a false warning or sending an electronic fire authorisation signal.

Because of these risks several Russian and US former nuclear commanders think that nuclear weapons should be taken completely off high alert.

Some argue that only a few hundred nuclear weapons would create a more than sufficient threat of devastation and that the rest of the 15,000 should be dismantled.

Recognising this, in 2017, over 100 nations agreed a new treaty to ban the building, deployment or use of nuclear weapons.

But so far, the nuclear-armed nations including the UK, are spending breathtakingly large sums building new warheads and missiles: around £200bn in the UK and at least $1200bn planned in the United States.

This is a scandalous waste of resources and scientific know-how, diverting precious resources from tackling the urgent and pressing need to reduce fossil fuel usage and avoid dangerous climate breakdown and for health and social care.

And on top of this there is a risk of a global nuclear war now and every minute of every day.

Of course, we haven’t destroyed ourselves yet, but nuclear weapons have only been existence for a relatively short period.

One hopes that the risk of a nuclear war is very low. But it certainly is not zero.

The idea that nuclear weapons confer any political advantage is thus a huge, expensive fallacy endangering us all.

To survive we need to dismantle and store 15,000 nuclear weapon component parts away before, through misadventure, the warheads destroy us.

Dr Philip Webber has written widely on nuclear issues and is Chair of Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) – a membership organisation promoting responsible science and technology. sgr.org.uk

Two Centuries Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Image result for 1755 massachusetts earthquake

The worst earthquake in Massachusetts history 260 years ago

It happened before, and it could happen again.

By Hilary Sargent @lilsarg

Boston.com Staff | 11.19.15 | 5:53 AM

On November 18, 1755, Massachusetts experienced its largest recorded earthquake.

The earthquake occurred in the waters off Cape Ann, and was felt within seconds in Boston, and as far away as Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, and upstate New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists have since estimated the quake to have been between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

While there were no fatalities, the damage was extensive.

According to the USGS, approximately 100 chimneys and roofs collapsed, and over a thousand were damaged.

The worst damage occurred north of Boston, but the city was not unscathed.

A 1755 report in The Philadelphia Gazette described the quake’s impact on Boston:

“There was at first a rumbling noise like low thunder, which was immediately followed with such a violent shaking of the earth and buildings, as threw every into the greatest amazement, expecting every moment to be buried in the ruins of their houses. In a word, the instances of damage done to our houses and chimnies are so many, that it would be endless to recount them.”

The quake sent the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall tumbling to the ground, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

An account of the earthquake, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on December 4, 1755.

The earthquake struck at 4:30 in the morning, and the shaking lasted “near four minutes,” according to an entry John Adams, then 20, wrote in his diary that day.

The brief diary entry described the damage he witnessed.

“I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it,” he wrote. “The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.”

The shaking was so intense that the crew of one ship off the Boston coast became convinced the vessel had run aground, and did not learn about the earthquake until they reached land, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In 1832, a writer for the Hampshire (Northampton) Gazette wrote about one woman’s memories from the quake upon her death.

“It was between 4 and 5 in the morning, and the moon shone brightly. She and the rest of the family were suddenly awaked from sleep by a noise like that of the trampling of many horses; the house trembled and the pewter rattled on the shelves. They all sprang out of bed, and the affrightted children clung to their parents. “I cannot help you dear children,” said the good mother, “we must look to God for help.

The Cape Ann earthquake came just 17 days after an earthquake estimated to have been 8.5-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Lisbon, Portugal, killing at least 60,000 and causing untold damage.

There was no shortage of people sure they knew the impretus for the Cape Ann earthquake.

According to many ministers in and around Boston, “God’s wrath had brought this earthquake upon Boston,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In “Verses Occasioned by the Earthquakes in the Month of November, 1755,” Jeremiah Newland, a Taunton resident who was active in religious activities in the Colony, wrote that the earthquake was a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

“It is becaufe we broke thy Laws,

that thou didst shake the Earth.

O what a Day the Scriptures say,

the EARTHQUAKE doth foretell;

O turn to God; lest by his Rod,

he cast thee down to Hell.”

Boston Pastor Jonathan Mayhew warned in a sermon that the 1755 earthquakes in Massachusetts and Portugal were “judgments of heaven, at least as intimations of God’s righteous displeasure, and warnings from him.”

There were some, though, who attempted to put forth a scientific explanation for the earthquake.

Well, sort of.

In a lecture delivered just a week after the earthquake, Harvard mathematics professor John Winthrop said the quake was the result of a reaction between “vapors” and “the heat within the bowels of the earth.” But even Winthrop made sure to state that his scientific theory “does not in the least detract from the majesty … of God.”

It has been 260 years since the Cape Ann earthquake. Some experts, including Boston College seismologist John Ebel, think New England could be due for another significant quake.

In a recent Boston Globe report, Ebel said the New England region “can expect a 4 to 5 magnitude quake every decade, a 5 to 6 every century, and a magnitude 6 or above every thousand years.”

If the Cape Ann earthquake occurred today, “the City of Boston could sustain billions of dollars of earthquake damage, with many thousands injured or killed,” according to a 1997 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

War Games Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Palestinians try to extinguish a fire in the car of a Hamas commander who was killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on May 5. (photo credit:“ ASHRAF ABU AMRAH / REUTERS)

War games with Gaza | The Jerusalem post

By YOSSI MELMAN

We feel like we’re dealing with two little kids in a kindergarten,’ say the Egyptians.

Early May witnessed the most lethal and unnecessary round of the violent exchange of fire between Gaza and Israel since the last war. The facts illustrate this better than anything else. 

In the 57 months that elapsed since the war in the summer of 2014 known as Operation Protective Edge, not a single Israeli citizen was killed. In the short battle in May, which lasted 60 hours, four Israeli civilians died from rockets and some 30 Palestinians from air bombardment.

In the 50 days of Protective Edge, Hamas and the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired 4,500 rockets. In the two and a half days in May, they launched 700 rockets.

The two terror groups – new Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi calls them “Terror Armies” – used new war toys in the battle. It is clear that they possess more rockets than Israeli intelligence knew about. 

It is now estimated that Hamas and PIJ have around 15,000 rockets, mostly self-manufactured in secret workshops and assembly lines in Gaza, some of them built underground. 

The warheads are heavier and the rockets’ range extends to 150 kilometers (more than 90 miles) and can now reach Tel Aviv and further north. Hamas has worked hard utilizing local engineers and technicians, as well as know-how acquired in Iran and Malaysia to improve its accuracy. 

Hamas operators showed an impressive ability to fire barrages of rockets simultaneously in order to confuse Israel’s air defense. In one instance, more than 100 rockets were launched within one hour directed at Iron Dome batteries.

Hamas also has small naval commando and anti-aircraft units, a fleet of drones and copters, and a cyber department. True, these are in their inception. Nevertheless, all of them were used in the battle, though obviously no match for the mighty military machine of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

Before the last round, the IDF psychological warfare department, which is part of Military Intelligence, tried to create a wedge between Hamas and the PIJ by spreading information and rumors accusing PIJ of plotting and operating against Israel behind Hamas’s back. 

But it turned out that during the recent clashes, the two groups worked very closely together from a joint command room, showings a high level of coordination, command and control, and a sense of common cause.

All in all, it is evident that Hamas and PIJ to a lesser degree are upgrading and improving their military capabilities and drawing lessons and conclusions from their past failures.

The IDF, for its part, also upended its attitude. It renewed the use of targeted killing, bombed Hamas-PIJ bunkers and command posts in the center of Gaza City, and exerted strong force in order to shock the enemy. It was brinkmanship. The instructions from the cabinet and Gen. Kochavi to the troops were: “Hit hard, but don’t cross the line! We don’t want to be dragged into an all out war.”

Since the two sides didn’t exchange messages during the battles, and they only conversed in fire, Hamas had to interpret Israel’s true intentions by itself. In such circumstances, the margins of error and miscalculation are high. 

Yet a full-scale war didn’t erupt. Hamas and PIJ demonstrated restraint and decided not to launch rockets against Tel Aviv, knowing the importance and the symbolic value of the city, which is considered as the beating heart of Israel.

Hamas didn’t want to be dragged into a war during the month of Ramadan, the most important holiday in the Muslim world. Israel was on the eve of its 71st Independence Day and in exciting preparations for the Eurovision, an international song contest. Neither side wanted to ruin its own parties. 

No wonder Gaza and Israel wanted a quick ceasefire, brokered as usual by Egyptian intelligence with a little help from Qatar. The round of hostilities was redundant because it changed nothing. The two sides stand exactly in the same spot where they were before it. 

In the weeks since the end of this round, the two sides have been engaged in a war of propaganda in which they have tried to convince public opinion at home and abroad that they won and the enemy lost. But it seems neither Israelis nor Gazans believe their government’s propaganda. It is even more evident in Israel. The most ardent supporters of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also know very well that Israeli deterrence suffered a major blow in the May clashes.

The sheer fact that Hamas and PIJ didn’t hesitate to challenge the IDF by launching hundreds of rockets is ultimate proof that while they may acknowledge Israeli superiority, they don’t fear Israel’s response and retaliation.

Their fearless approach derives from the asymmetrical realities of the two sides. Hamas exploits its limited military strength to the maximum to achieve a political goal. Its aim is to lift the Israeli blockade imposed on land, sea and air. Hamas aspires to improve the unbearable standards of living of the two million Palestinians who live in poverty, with undrinkable water, a constant shortage of electricity and a nearly 50% rate of unemployment. 

Hamas leaders, especially Yahya Sinwar, who served more than 20 years in an Israeli prison, know very well that they rule on the edge of a volcano. They know that the Gaza population is frustrated and angry, and may turn against them similar to the way in which the Arab masses got rid of or turned against their own governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria. 

Hamas is more worried about its survival and the possible reaction of its people than Israeli guns. Thus, the group’s leadership seeks to do everything it can to change the miserable reality of Gaza.

The Israeli government, on the other hand, has no clear strategy or long-term diplomatic goals. Already 57 months ago in the indirect, proximity talks in Cairo between Israeli security officials and their Hamas-PIJ counterparts, moderated by Egyptian intelligence, major understandings were agreed upon. 

It was understood that Israel would lift its blockade, Gaza would be rehabilitated and rebuilt with new neighborhoods, a water desalination plant, an electricity power station and sewer projects, to be financed by Qatar and the international community. 

Israel even hinted that at the end of the rehabilitation process, it would agree to the construction of a sea port and airport. In return, Hamas and PIJ agreed to sign a long-term (five or maybe more years) sustainable ceasefire without recognizing the right of Israel to exist, but with a promise to restrain all the other small renegade terrorist organizations operating in Gaza. 

During the negotiations in 2014, the two sides also talked about the possibility of demilitarizing Gaza – but without any firm commitment by the Gazan representatives.

Very little of what was negotiated there and then materialized. Hamas and PIJ honored the ceasefire for three and a half years. Israel opened two border crossings to allow a flow of basic goods to Gaza and extended fishing waters to 12 nautical miles for Palestinian fishermen. 

Realizing that all the other promises were not kept, Hamas and PIJ embarked on a new path, employing tactical measures to break the diplomatic stalemate. They sent thousands of people to protest, demonstrate and occasionally to break and damage the new border fence and underground barrier of 66 kilometers that Israel is constructing to encompass the Strip. They launched arson kites, which set fires and burned Israeli fields along the border and, from time to time, renewed launching rockets in small numbers.

Israel responded by sniper fire and air strikes, killing some 250 Palestinians. To restore tranquility, senior Egyptian intelligence officials, including its chief, Gen. Abbas Kamel, traveled back and forth between Cairo-Gaza and Tel Aviv, and met with Hamas leaders and the heads of Israel’s intelligence community. 

All brokered ceasefires were short-lived and broken after a few days or weeks. The two sides have found themselves time and again rolling forward and then backward to the starting point. And this is exactly where they are once again right now.

While the Hamas position is clear and its aims well-known, it is difficult to read Netanyahu and understand what motivates him. As reported here by this writer in several articles, Netanyahu’s long-term strategy seems to be to prevent the creation of one unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. He no longer talks about the “two-state solution.” In order to achieve his goal, he is trying to divide the Palestinians into two separate entities – one in Gaza and one in the West Bank, both of which will have limited autonomy. 

This is why Netanyahu is weakening the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank by depriving it of a significant portion of its own tax monies collected by Israel. At the same time, he allows Qatar to transfer a monthly “ransom” of $30 million to Gaza, part of which goes to Hamas, enabling it to produce rockets and other armaments. No wonder that his critics, including from within his ruling Likud party and the cabinet, call it “blood money” or “protection money” and blame Netanyahu for surrendering to terror.

The mystery surrounding Netanyahu’s approach is even more difficult to understand since it seems to contradict his own long-term goals. If he wishes to divide and rule, it should be in his interest to help Gaza and its people lead as normal a life as possible. However, by refusing to reach a long-term solution with Hamas he only aggravates the situation.

Not only Hamas understands this reality but so does Egypt. Western diplomatic sources involved in the efforts to reach a comprehensive solution told me that they had heard Egyptian officials express their frustration. 

“We feel like we’re dealing with two little kids in a kindergarten,” they cited the Egyptians as saying. 

Surely it’s also an Egyptian national interest that Gaza will remain calm. Egypt and Israel are strong allies and, as President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi admitted in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes a few months ago, have enhanced their military and intelligence cooperation in the war against ISIS in Sinai. 

“But,” as the Egyptian officials remarked, “with all our best intentions and good services, we are getting tired of Netanyahu’s games.”

It is clear to all involved parties that if – in a matter of weeks after Netanyahu forms his new cabinet – a comprehensive long-term agreement is not achieved soon by Israel and Hamas, a new war will break out once again – with one exception. 

This time it will be much more violent. Thousands of casualties can be expected on both sides with great damage to buildings and property. And there is the strong possibility that in the eventuality of a new war, the IDF will have no choice but to conquer Gaza, which its commanders are against as are as the majority of Israelis.

Iraq is One of the Four Horns of Prophecy (Daniel 8:8)

An Iraqi policeman stands guard at a border crossing between Iran and Iraq near the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Feb 26, 2007.An Iraqi policeman stands guard at a border crossing between Iran and Iraq near the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Feb 26, 2007.  Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images

Iraq Is Not an Iranian Vassal State

These days, Tehran is having trouble getting what it wants from its neighbor—a development Washington can encourage by backing off.

It almost goes without saying these days that Iran dominates its western neighbor. On April 27, for example, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed tweeted that Iran’s regime “controls” Iraq. Now-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton once compared Tehran’s grip on Iraq to the Soviet Union’s stranglehold over Eastern Europe during the late 1940s. And while she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley assailed Iran last September for working to “build an Iraqi government that is under the control of the Iranian regime.”

Yes, Iran wields significant influence in Iraq. It is the country’s third-largest trade partner, at approximately $12 billion annually. In the 2018 elections, Iran loyalists in the Fatah Alliance won 48 of the seats—14.6 percent—in Iraq’s parliament, making it the second-largest bloc in the legislature. And Iran has armed Shiite militias, which have cornered parts of the Iraqi economy and are responsible for security in some regions even after the territorial defeat of the Islamic State.

However, the limits of Iranian interference are quickly becoming clear.


In late 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Iraq’s Al Asad Air Base. Seeing this as disrespecting Baghdad’s sovereignty, Fatah lawmakers protested the move by intensifying their efforts to expel the 5,200 remaining U.S. troops from the country. They had the backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who later called on Iraq to evict the United States “as soon as possible.”

But despite Iran and Fatah’s demands, legislation to actually kick out the U.S. troops has stalled. Sunni and Kurdish parties have refused to back the bill, and without at least some of them, it is unlikely to pass. In March, Mohammed al-Halbousi, the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, even traveled to Washington to reaffirm Iraq’s appreciation for the U.S. military presence. And in late April, Iraqi President Barham Salih met with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs fighting in Iraq, to “honor her sacrifice.”

The next day, a senior Fatah official admitted that the effort to oust U.S. troops was going nowhere. “I do not think there is a real desire from the political blocs to remove the foreign forces from Iraq,” Fatah’s Naseem Abdullah said, “especially as many alliances have one stance in the media, while revealing a different position behind the scenes.”

Also pointing to resistance to Iranian influence is the ongoing battle over staffing a critical interior ministry post in the Iraqi cabinet. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has struggled to finalize his cabinet for approximately eight months.

Fatah has repeatedly pushed for Falih al-Fayyadh—currently the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of mainly Iran-backed Shiite paramilitaries—as interior minister. Abdul Mahdi nominated him in December, but his approval was blocked by lawmakers in the Sadr alliance, which under the leadership of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has fashioned itself as a nationalist movement fighting both U.S. and Iranian influence. “Our decision is Iraqi” chanted the Sadr-allied parliamentarians—an apparent dig at Fayyadh, who met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier this year.

In March, Fatah withdrew Fayyadh as its pick for interior minister, and the position remains unfilled. The saga demonstrates the powerlessness of Iran’s Iraqi allies to ramrod their favored pick into the cabinet.

Another sign of Iraqi independence is that a visit to Baghdad by Rouhani in March was followed the next month with a trip to Saudi Arabia by Abdul Mahdi and a delegation of 12 ministers. During the tour, the Iraqi government signed 13 agreements with Riyadh. The same month, Saudi Arabia reopened a Baghdad consulate—for the first time in nearly 30 years.

A Hezbollah supporter displays a picture of Iran's late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini as he marks Ashura in a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut on Oct. 1, 2017.
Iraqi boys walk past a shop in a local market in the northern city of Mosul on Nov. 21. ( Zaid al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images)
A customer looks at an Iranian-made washing machine at a store in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Aug. 8, 2018.

Iran, of course, is not pleased. In a meeting with Abdul Mahdi, Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the Islamic State. And last year, a senior advisor to the supreme leader warned, “We will not allow liberals and communists to govern Iraq,” a dig against Sadr after the Iraqi cleric held a landmark meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 and advocated for a less lopsided relationship with Tehran. But that has not deterred the Iraqi premier from establishing closer ties with Riyadh.

Finally, there’s the Iraqi public to think of. An Iraqi poll published in the Washington Post showed a 41-percentage-point decline in Iraqi Shiite favorability toward Iran between 2015 and the fall of 2018. Furthermore, amid rampant electricity outages and some 100,00 cases of people poisoned by polluted last summer, Iraqis broke into protest, furious at the central government for neglecting its citizens. Some protesters apparently blamed Iran as well. In addition to burning down an office of the Iran-backed militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqis in Basra stormed the Iranian consulate, smashing furniture before setting the building on fire. The torching of an Iranian diplomatic facility in one of Iraq’s most important Shiite cities was a clear sign of the limits of Iran’s reach.


To claim that Iran single-handedly dominates Iraq ignores the competing influences of multiple global powers, including the United States. Turkey also maintains considerable influence in Iraq with some 10 military bases. It has launched hundreds of airstrikes in the Kurdish region.

Despite Tehran’s considerable influence in Baghdad, its ambitions in Iraq have repeatedly been thwarted. As a compromise candidate between Sadr and Fatah, Abdul Mahdi is no Iran stooge; his reluctance to advance legislation to expel U.S. forces highlights his understanding that Baghdad must preserve friendly ties with many competing powers.

The Trump administration’s exaggeration of Iranian domination over Iraq—part of a bid to pressure Abdul Mahdi to cut energy ties with his country’s eastern neighbor and put further pressure on Tehran—is dangerous. It jeopardizes Iraq’s security and undermines those Iraqi factions looking to establish a more even-handed relationship with Tehran.

All of the Antichrist’s Men (Revelation 13:18)

Commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani attends an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani attends an annual rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Archive)

TRT WORLD

Iraq

Mahdi Army: The group, also known as Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM), was formed in 2003 by Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr who is the leader of the Sadrist movement. Al-Sadr teamed up with a small group of 500 followers with the objective of expelling the US coalition that invaded the county that year. The estimated number of the militiamen later reached at least 10,000.

In its early years, Iran largely supported the group. Tehran provided arms and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah helped to train the army, but Sadr began adopting anti-Iran policies in 2006 when he drifted away from the then Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who was backed by Tehran.

Sadr became one of the most influential figures of Iraqi politics with the 2018 elections as he re-established himself an anti-sectarian and anti-corruption leader.

Badr Organisation: The group is part of the PMF. It is considered Tehran’s oldest proxy in Iraq. Its leader, Hadi Al-Amri, renamed the group, once known as the Badr Brigades, when he joined since the constitution bans paramilitary groups from political participation and he was poised to run in the 2018 elections.

Hashd Al-Shaabi: Also referred to as the PMF, Hashd Al-Shaabi is the umbrella military unit embracing the largest Shia armed groups, Badr Organisation and the Mahdi army. It’s largely funded and commanded by Iran, which is predominantly Shia.

In fact, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stepped in as advisers and trainers to those militia groups under the umbrella of Hashd Al-Shaabi, while Iran began providing funds and armories to more than 100,000 Hashd fighters. The Hashd Al-Shaabi’s second man, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis, pledged allegianceto Iranian commander Qassem Sulaimani in early 2017.

It was founded after 2014 after Iraq’s Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani called to defend the country from Daesh since the Iraqi army was too weak to do so. The group played a key role in defeating Daesh in the country, but is also accused of human rights abuses. Human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented major crimes against Iraqi Sunnis.

Made up of more than 50 sub-groups, Hashd Al-Shaabi also includes a few Yazidis, Christians and some Sunni tribal leaders that have fought alongside the group.

A year later, in 2016, Iraq’s parliament passed legislation legitimising the PMF as an independent organisation within the Iraqi army. Sistani, who is known for rejecting the Iranian model of theocracy, opposed the group’s involvement in the politics and expressed his discomfort with Iranian influence in the country. The group, however, managed to step up its influence in the Iraqi political sphere with the defeat of Daesh.

Syria

National Defence Forces (NDF): The Syrian paramilitary organisation was formed in 2012 in support of the Syrian regime with the help of Iran and Hezbollah. Iran has been the main backer of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the eight-year war.

The NDF was created through merging and restructuring the pro-regime Popular Committees and Shabiha, pro Assad thugs, taking Iran’s Basij resistance Force as a leading example. It played an important role in keeping the Assad regime strong in its fight against opposition forces in the country, but is also blamed for human rights abuses by international rights organisations.

Fatemeyoun Brigades: This is an affiliate of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that was originally created to defend the shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab outside of Damascus before the Syrian war broke out in 2011. It is made up almost entirely of Shia Afghans and refugees. The force fought in the front lines of the war alongside regime forces.

Lebanon

Hezbollah: The group is an internationally blacklisted political and militant organisationprimarily based in Lebanon under the leadership of Hassan Nasrallah. Its creation dates back to the 1980s following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Iran helped create and sponsor the guerilla group, fortifying it with weapons, fighters and assistance. The United States and other Western nations have named it a terrorist group.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s political party leadsthe pro-Syrian March 8 faction, while it remains heavily involved in the Syrian war. The group opposes the West and Israel and seeks an Iranian-style autocracy.