Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)

By WILLIAM K. STEVENS

Published: October 24, 1989

AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.

The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.

But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.

For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”

If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California. Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.

Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.

The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”

On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.

Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.

The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.

No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.

The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.

The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.

Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.

Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower. 

Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California, said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.

The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”

 Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.

Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.

Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.

”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.

New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.

Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.

As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.

New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.

”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”

For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.

”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”

In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.

Tunnels Vulnerable

The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.

Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.

”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”

Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?

”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Save the Oil Before the War (Revelation 6:6)

 

Six charts that show how hard US sanctions have hit Iran

▪ 02 May 2019 Middle East

Six months of exemptions from US sanctions for countries still buying oil from Iran ended on Thursday.

President Donald Trump reinstated the sanctions last year after abandoning a landmark nuclear accord, which he wants to renegotiate.

Iran’s leaders have remained defiant in the face of the sanctions and vowed to overcome them, but the substantial impact they have had on the country is clear.

Sliding towards a deep recession

Iran’s economy was badly affected for several years by sanctions imposed by the international community over the country’s nuclear programme.

In 2015, President Hassan Rouhani agreed a deal with the US and five other world powers to limit Iranian nuclear activities in return for the lifting of those sanctions.

The following year, after the deal was implemented, Iran’s economy bounced back and GDP grew 12.3%, according to the Central Bank of Iran.

But much of that growth was attributed to the oil and gas industry, and the recoveries of other sectors were not as significant as many Iranians had hoped.

Growth fell back to 3.7% in 2017, helping to fuel the economic discontent that led to the biggest anti-government protests in Iran for almost a decade that December.

The reinstatement of US sanctions last year – particularly those imposed on the energy, shipping and financial sectors in November – caused foreign investment to dry up and hit oil exports.

The sanctions bar US companies from trading with Iran, but also with foreign firms or countries that are dealing with Iran.

As a result Iran’s GDP contracted by 3.9% in 2018, according to estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF said in late April that it expected the Iranian economy to shrink by 6% in 2019. However, that projection preceded the expiration of the sanctions waivers.

Oil exports have more than halved

At the start of 2018, Iran’s crude oil production reached 3.8 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data gathered by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec). The country was exporting about 2.3 million bpd.

Most of the oil was bought by eight countries or territories that were granted six-month waivers by the US when sanctions on the Iranian energy sector took effect – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

So long as those countries cut their purchases of Iranian oil over that period their banks were permitted to continue to conduct transactions for any purpose with the Central Bank of Iran or with any other Iranian banks without risking US penalties.

By March 2019, Iran’s oil exports had fallen to 1.1 million bpd on average, according to the consulting firm SVB Energy International. Taiwan, Greece and Italy had halted imports altogether, while the two biggest buyers – China and India – had reduced them by 39% and 47% respectively. A US official estimated that Iran’s government had lost more than $10bn ($7.7bn) in revenue as a result.

President Trump declared that he “intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero” when he decided to allow the SRE waivers expire on 2 May.

However, it is not clear how much further Iranian oil sales will drop.

China has insisted that its trade with Iran is perfectly legal and that the US has no jurisdiction to interfere. Turkey has said it cannot cut ties with a neighbour.

Iran could also export oil to cover humanitarian needs and might be able to evade the sanctions by exporting oil covertly – something analysts suspect it already does.

The value of the rial has plummeted

President Rouhani kept the Iranian currency stable for almost four years. But it has lost almost 60% of its value against the US dollar on the unofficial market since the US sanctions were reinstated, according to foreign exchange websites.

The fixed official rate of 42,000 rials to the dollar is used for a limited range of transactions, so most Iranians rely on currency traders. Bonbast.com reported that traders were offering 143,000 rials to the dollar on 30 April.

The rial’s slide has been attributed to Iran’s economic problems and a high demand for foreign currency among ordinary Iranians who have seen the value of their savings eroded and worried that the situation will get worse.

The rial has regained some of its value since September 2018, when the Central Bank of Iran released more dollars into the market and authorities cracked down on currency dealers as prices reached a record low of 190,000 to the dollar.

Iran’s currency woes have also led to shortages of imported goods and products that are made with raw materials from abroad, most notably babies’ nappies.

Living costs have risen dramatically

Image caption

In the last year, the cost of red meat and poultry has increased by 57%

President Rouhani managed to get inflation down to 9% in 2017. But the IMF estimates that it soared to 31% in 2018 and predicts that it could reach 37% or more this year if oil exports continue to fall.

The plunging value of the rial has affected not only the prices of imported goods but also of locally produced staples. In the past 12 months, the cost of red meat and poultry has increased by 57%, milk, cheese and eggs by 37%, and vegetables by 47% , according to the Statistical Centre of Iran.

The price rises have led to long queues at government-subsidised grocery shops, particularly for rationed meat. In an attempt to lower prices, the government has banned livestock exports, flown in hundreds of thousands of cows and sheep from abroad. But analysts say some Iranian farmers are selling meat in neighbouring countries to obtain foreign hard currency.

There is also a plan to introduce electronic coupons to help the poorest people obtain meat and other essential goods. An estimated 3% of Iranians – some 2.4 million people – were living on less than $1.90 (£1.46) a day in 2016.

The poor have also been hit hard by almost 20% increases in the costs of housing and medical services in the past year.

The IMF’s Jihad Azour told Reuters news agency last week that Iran could help tame inflation by working to eliminate the gap between the rial’s official and unofficial exchange rates.

World War 3 Cannot be Avoided (Revelation 16)

US-Iranian Conflict: Can A Fourth Gulf War Be Prevented? -By Marwan Bishara

Tensions between the United States and Iran have flared up since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran last year and began ratcheting up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Earlier this month, tensions turned into threats, as Washington refused to extend sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil, designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, and began military preparations to deter Iran. 

These measures are pushing the Iranian economy to the brink. Oil exports, which have already dwindled from 2.5 million to less than 1.3 million barrels a day since last year, could drop even further, crippling the state budget. Ordinary Iranians, who are already suffering from the raging inflation (currently at 40 percent) and skyrocketing prices of goods, will likely bear the brunt of Washington’s push to bring Iranian oil exports to zero. And this is only the beginning.

The Iranian leadership has been defiant. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said this “hostile measure” will not be left

“without a response”, while President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has cautioned that Iran could walk away from the nuclear deal and warned against a potential escalation to war.

If the past three Gulf wars of the 1980s (Iraq-Iran), 1991 (US/UN-Iraq) and 2003 (US/UK-Iraq) are anything to go by, a confrontation between the US and Iran would prove far more devastating. So why are Washington and Tehran ignoring the lessons of war, and marching eyes wide shut towards another armed conflict? And can anyone stop them?

Washington’s arrogance

Even before he was elected president, Donald Trump famously branded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the Obama administration “the worst deal ever” and once he took office, he embarked on dismantling it.

In May last year, his administration withdrew from the JCPOA and issued 12 demands to Iran. It was one of those impossible lists, designed to provoke and humiliate.

The US wants Iran to end all its nuclear and missile programmes, withdraw its forces from Syria, stop its “destabilising” policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, and cease its support for armed groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis in exchange for negotiating a new nuclear deal.

No one would have been more surprised than the US itself if Iran had said yes to any of it. These demands basically constitute total Iranian surrender, not only to the US but also to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s key regional partners and principle drivers behind the new Iran policy.

National Security Advisor of the United States John Bolton made this crystal clear on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session last September, when he said: “If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

The message was certainly heard loud and clear in Tehran, which has accused the so-called B-team (Bolton, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Zayed) of pushing Trump to seek regime or war with Iran.

Perhaps it is true that the US president has been ensnared by various warmongers in a vicious campaign against Iran, but the Iranian leadership has been anything but innocent in all of this, with its own A-team (led by Ayatollah Khamenei) pursuing regional hegemony.

Tehran’s arrogance

Instead of taking advantage of the windfall from the nuclear deal and the normalisation of relations with the West to rebuild its economy and country, Tehran has doubled down on its aggressive policies in the region.

Although it has accused the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of causing instability, it has itself chosen to advance its narrow interests with recklessness and indifference to the disastrous consequences.

Over the past few years, Iran has pursued a sectarian strategy that destabilised its neighbours and empowered the likes of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. It has also waged proxy wars against Saudi Arabia, crippling countries like Yemen and Lebanon and used paramilitary groups like the IRGC and its al-Quds Force to undermine opponents across the Arab world.

Its aggressive policies have fuelled a now widely held suspicion that it seeks to “create a new Persian and Shi’ite ’empire’ on Arab land”. Some members of its political elite have even bragged that Iran already rules in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa.

The Iranian strategy of exploiting instability to pursue regional hegemony has backfired. In the hope of curtailing Iran’s Middle Eastern ambitions, many Arab states are now not only siding with the US but are also drawing closer to Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

Religious fanaticism

In addition to economic, diplomatic and strategic tools, Washington and Tehran are also employing religion to justify their policies and rally their supporters at home and abroad.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, has claimed that Trump may have been sent by God to protect Israel from Iran. He, along with Vice President Mike Pence and other evangelicals working with the Trump administration, supports Israel’s religious claims over Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, and invokes biblical texts to explain US policy towards Iran and the region.

No less alarming is Iran’s use of religion and particularly the idea of protecting the oppressed and the downtrodden to pursue its hegemonic policies across the region. The Iranian leadership has also actively sought the sectarianisation of local tensions and conflicts in order to present itself as the “protector” of all Shia communities in the region. It has also employed Shia dogmas and calls to protect holy Shia shrines to recruit fighters for the various militias it supports in Iraq and Syria.

But it is not only the US and Iran who have engaged in religious fanaticism. Israel and Saudi Arabia have done so as well, and so have various non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

They have all assumed their own versions of “manifest destiny”, claiming they were divinely ordained to conquer and occupy and willing to use God’s name in vain in order to advance their narrow political interests.

Arrogance breeds contempt; religious arrogance breeds conflict. So, could this “clash of fanaticism” escalate into a wider confrontation?

The prospect of war

I am not convinced that either Trump or Rouhani wishes for a war. There doesn’t seem to be a decision or a plan to go to war, yet – not today, not tomorrow.

But what about next year? Trump’s 12 demands have left Tehran with no option for an honourable exit and set it on the path towards an economic disaster. Feeling anxious about an implosion from within, it will have to devise a plan to respond.

Meanwhile, the US will continue to strangle it economically, destabilise it politically and undermine it regionally. It will pursue

various containment strategies like “offshore balancing“, but if those fail, military intervention will be a viable option.

Washington’s aggressive approach will likely weaken Iranian pragmatists like Rouhani, and empower hardliners. This will cause Iran to abandon diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis and seek to quit the nuclear deal and perhaps even the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether, rile up its Gulf neighbours, and undermine the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This would inevitably evoke a sharp reaction from Washington, which may lead to war or wars by proxy throughout much of the region.

Foreseeing such developments, the Trump administration is already preparing the public for possible escalation. Like the Bush administration, it is repeating the same false claims that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq – that there are weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat and support for terrorism.

Clearly, some in Washington have forgotten the Iraq debacle, and continue to believe in limited wars and regime change.

Preventing a war

All of this begs the bigger question: Where are the world powers who signed the Iran deal, enshrined it in a UN Security Council resolution, and vowed to defend it? Shouldn’t they stop the ongoing escalation?

Europe may still support the deal but it is clearly spooked by Washington’s aggressive posturing and has not yet activated INSTEX, the alternative trade mechanism to bypass US sanctions.

Russia, an oil exporter, seems indifferent for now, and may even benefit from higher oil prices; India has found alternative suppliers, while Turkey continues to ask for waivers.

China, the biggest importer of Iranian oil, has reduced its oil imports by a quarter since last year. It still maintains business relations with Tehran, just enough to use it as a bargaining chip in the ongoing trade negotiations with Washington.

In short, the world powers have not been successful in saving the nuclear deal, or devising a viable plan to circumvent US sanctions.

They are also failing to curb the US-Iranian escalation to war. If there is any chance of stopping this madness, it may well have to come from the US itself.

The ball is in your court, America. But don’t wait until 2020 to make your voice heard against another mad, sick, stupid war.

Antichrist Calls for Urgent Response to Reappearance of ISIS Leader

Iraqi politicians call for urgent response to reappearance of ISIS leader

Mina AldroubiApril 30, 2019

Iraqi politicians made an urgent call on Tuesday to ensure that Baghdad is to ready to counter an ISIS resurgence, after the terror group’s leader made a video appearance for the first time in five years.

Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi appeared in a propaganda video released on Monday. It was his first appearance since 2014 and was designed to rally his remaining followers worldwide.

It was broadcast to prove that ISIS had not been defeated, a month after losing its last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria.

“The appearance of Al Baghdadi in the video is a very dangerous development facing the Iraqi government,” Sarkwat Shams, a member of parliament, told The National.

“The most important thing the parliament can do is to vote for the interior and defence ministers.”

Since assuming office last October, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has failed to form a complete government, with the defence, interior and justice portfolios still vacant.

Internal disagreement between rival blocs led by populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr and Iranian-backed Hadi Al Ameri have prevented the appointment of a full Cabinet of 22 ministers.

The deadlock has raised fears that militants could exploit the power vacuum as the country struggles to rebuild after a brutal battle against ISIS.

“I believe we should take it seriously and we should analyse the size of the threat,” Mr Shams said.

“However, ISIS will benefit from the crisis and corruption. We believe that the threat is serious and we should be ready for it.”

Terrorism remains a threat with or without Al Baghdadi, said former Iraqi vice president Ayyad Allawi.

ISIS has sleeper cells in Iraq, Syria and across the Middle East, Mr Allawi said.

The parliament needs to finalise the country’s security portfolios,” he said. “The economy must be revived so that jobs are created. Many Iraqis, especially the youth, are unemployed.

“Having a profession will give Iraqis a sense of stability in that they will have a purpose and means of income.

“It will divert them from joining ISIS.”

Iraq needs political stability and security to battle the threat and ideology of ISIS, said Falah Mustafa, the head of foreign relations for the Kurdistan Regional Government.

“For the current situation in Iraq to be consolidated, we need to have a complete Cabinet, we need have political stability and to support the current government,” Mr Mustafa said.

The current situation is very fragile, he said, and Iraq needed to “be vigilant and on alert that ISIS may make a comeback”.

“We need to co-ordinate in terms of intelligence-sharing, and address the issue politically, economically, socially and culturally so that we address the root causes that led to the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and other places,” Mr Mustafa said.

The reappearance of Al Baghdadi showed that ISIS was still a threat to Iraq’s security, MP Jaber Al Jaberi said.

“Those who think that ISIS is defeated in Iraq are wrong,” Mr Al Jaberi said.

Mr Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that Al Baghdadi’s “appearance is a way of showing support towards his followers”.

He warned that although “ISIS’s capabilities have shrunk they still remain a threat” to the region.

The terror group has lost its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, which stripped Al Baghdadi of his assumed title of “caliph” and turned him into a fugitive.

Experts predict that he is moving along the desert border between Iraq and Syria.

Last year Iraqi authorities formed a special task force with US special forces to search for Al Baghdadi, said Hashim Al Hashimi, a counter-terrorism expert in Iraq.

“The group has eliminated 13 out of 17 possibilities of his hideout and are very close to locating him, either in the Anbar desert in the Hawran valley region, or the Syrian Homs desert,” Mr Al Hashimi said.

But he said that Al Baghdadi’s reappearance, which was a shock for the Iraqi government, would give his supporters hope.

It will also put to rest rumours of his death and severe injuries, Mr Al Hashimi said.

Baghdad declared victory over the insurgents in 2017 but has struggled to dislodge their insurgency since.

Updated: May 1, 2019 10:07 AM

How the US is Building the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Saudi-U.S. nuclear hypocrisy exposed

KASHMIR – According to author and radio host, Harvey Wasserman, U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to infuse $3.7 billion dollars into Vogtle nuclear power plants is a criminal act.

The U.S. nuclear industry is facing stiff competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy, so financial assistance is critical for the survival of the industry. Trump administration is not only infusing money into the troubled U.S. nuclear energy sector but strongly advocating the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to the regime in Riyadh. It has adopted a well-coordinated strategy to guarantee the survival of the U.S. nuclear industry.

The unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from JCPOA, malign interests of the U.S. military-industrial complex and a comprehensive plan to contain Iranian influence in the Middle East are some important links that can explain the Saudi-U.S. nuclear hypocrisy.

At the superficial level, Saudi regime considers itself a strong advocate of weapons of mass destruction free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East but by praising the unilateral withdrawal of U.S. from JCPOA and an open admission to acquire nuclear weapons in case Iran undertakes a nuclear program is a testament to Saudi hypocrisy.

It seems logical to put deterrence against a rival but Saudi intentions to acquire nuclear weapons date back to the inception of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

The justification for deterrence against Iran is a fabricated story as we analyze the Iran nuclear deal which reduced the enriched uranium stockpile of Iran by 98% and the number of gas centrifuges reduced to two-thirds for 13 years.

Iran even agreed to halt building new heavy water facilities and enrich uranium up to 3.67%. Further it agreed on regular inspection of its nuclear program by international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In this context, the statement of former UK ambassador to UN and IAEA, Peter Jenkins that “as long as Iran is complying with the JCPOA, the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia are deprived of any basis for claiming that Iran presents a nuclear threat which must be eliminated by use of force” sufficiently explains the Saudi nuclear hypocrisy.

Saudi criticism of Iran’s civilian nuclear program highlights its double standard as according to Abdul Hameed Nayyer, a Pakistani nuclear physicist, Saudi Arabia can demand nuclear weapons from Pakistan due to its generous investment in the country.

Additionally, Brigadier Feroz Hassan Khan in his book “Eating Grass: The Making Of the Pakistani Bomb” also explains the Saudi ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

Considering the nuclear option from Pakistan and potentially a huge space to exploit solar energy for clean power renders the establishment of nuclear infrastructure by Saudi regime useless. But the report from investigative journalist Kim Kleppin has revealed how Saudi lobby is pushing Trump administration to transfer the sensitive nuclear technology to the regime. According to the report a U.S. law firm linked to Trump vigorously lobbied the U.S. administration for nuclear technology transfer and received half a million dollars within one month of its establishment.

The vested business interests in Saudi nuclear program were revealed on February 19, 2019, in a report by the ‘house oversight and reform committee’ that disclosed Trump administration’s plan to bypass U.S. Congress for nuclear technology transfer to Saudi Arabia.

The report of the committee highlights intentions of IP3 international, a consortium of nuclear power producers. IP3 was founded by retired army general Jack Keane and its proposal was presented to White House officials by Thomas Barrack. Barrack is a close friend of Trump who raised $107 million for Trump’s inaugural committee. Michael Flynn is another central figure to the report who has worked as a paid advisor to a subsidiary of IP3 while serving in Trump’s presidential campaign. Flynn promoted IP3’s intention to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to white house officials.

McFarlane, the former national security advisor to the U.S. and currently an advisor to IP3, compared the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to the Marshall plan for the Middle East. According to the report, the founders of the IP3, McFarlane, and CEOs of Toshiba energy, GE power, Exelon Corporation Bechtel Corp and Siemens have promoted the plan to sell nuclear technology to Riyadh.

The retired generals who founded IP3 have always portrayed Iran as a nuclear threat but now their intentions to transfer such technology to Saudi regime is meant to serve their monetary interests. The house oversight committee quoting a senior Trumps official said “the proposal of IP3 is not a business plan but rather a scheme for these generals to make some money.”

In an interview with Sputnik, Tom Sauer of the University of Antwerp Belgium said the Saudi proposal to build about 40 nuclear reactors is a great business opportunity for troubled the U.S. nuclear industry and the Wall Street perceives peaceful Middle East as a nightmare for its military-industrial complex.

According to some experts, the nuclear technology transfer to Saudi Arabia will initiate an arms race in the Middle East that is what U.S. military-industrial complex wants.

According to Tom Collin, policy director at Ploughshares Fund, Saudis don’t require nuclear power and if the U.S. transfers such technology to the kingdom it will force Iran to restart its nuclear program.

The arms race will serve both the U.S. military industrial complex and the Saudi regime because Saudi regime wants to derail Iranian economy by draining its resources through arms race as they are frustrated by Iran’s influence and progress in the region.

It is similar to U.S. strategy to contain Russian influence by initiating arms race as the U.S. economy has an unlimited supply of petrodollars but Russian economy has limited options to finance its military and civilian projects.

IAEA has denied any military vector of Iran’s nuclear program but Saudi-U.S. hypocrisy to portray Iran as is a nuclear threat is meant to serve their vested interests. They consider nuclear arms race as a tool to serve private business interest and simultaneously a counterweight against Iran’s axis of resistance that consists of Iran, Assad government, Hezbollah and the alliance of Russia and China.

Mudasir Sheikh is a student and researcher based in Indian controlled Kashmir.