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 M

Russia Concerned About Babylon the Great’s Nukes

Markus Rauchenberger / U.S. Army photo

Russia Warns U.S. is Preparing to Use Nuclear Weapons in Europe

The Moscow Times

The United States is laying the groundwork to use nuclear weapons in Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s arms control and nonproliferation chief has warned.

The U.S. and Russia are suspending the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. Russia has said it was planning for a U.S. deployment of new nuclear missiles in Europe following Washington’s planned withdrawal.

“[The U.S. is] preparing to use nuclear weapons in Europe with the involvement of non-nuclear states,” Vladimir Yermakov, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s department of arms control and nonproliferation, was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

“Sadly, some countries dependent on Washington pretend that nothing is happening or are simply afraid to think about how provocative this act is,” he told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Germany’s foreign minister had said in December that Berlin would staunchly oppose any efforts to station new medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe after the INF Treaty is scrapped.

Yemarkov, in the RIA interview quoted by the RBC news website, warned that European states place themselves “on the brink of nuclear catastrophe and complete self-destruction” by supporting any U.S. nuclear efforts.

Russia calls the U.S. deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe a “flagrant violation” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls on nuclear states such as the United States and Russia to work toward nuclear disarmament.

Washington accuses Moscow of violating the INF Treaty with a new cruise missile, which Russia says is not covered by the pact.

Starvation Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

UN: Over 1m Palestinians in Gaza may not have food in June

Palestinian children stand next to bags of food aid provided by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees at their family home in the Gaza Strip on 24 January 2018 [Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images]

May 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm

UNRWA warned today that unless it secures $60m in funding by June, its ability to continue providing food to more than one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza will be severely curtailed.

In a statement the international organisation said: “At a time when Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan, often characterised by the festive nature of its Iftars, in Gaza, more than half the population depends on food aid from the international community.”

The statement stressed that unless UNRWA secures “at least an additional $60 million by June, their ability to continue providing food to more than one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, including some 620,000 abject poor – those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on $1.6 per day – and nearly 390,000 absolute poor – those who survive on about $3.5 per day – will be severely challenged.”

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. From fewer than 80,000 Palestine refugees receiving UNRWA social assistance in Gaza in the year 2000, there are today over one million people who need emergency food assistance without which they cannot get through their day.

Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, said: “This is a near ten-fold increase caused by the blockade that lead to the closure of Gaza and its disastrous impact on the local economy, the successive conflicts that razed entire neighbourhoods and public infrastructure to the ground, and the ongoing internal Palestinian political crisis that started in 2007 with the arrival of Hamas to power in Gaza.”

A report issued by the United Nations in 2017 warned that the Gaza Strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

The unemployment rate in Gaza rose to 52 per cent last year, with more than one million of the enclaves two million population dependent on quarterly UNRWA food handouts.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Last year, the US State Department said Washington would “no longer commit funding” to the UNRWA.

The US had been UNRWA’s largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually — roughly a quarter of the agency’s overall budget.

This came a month after reports emerged of a secret American report stated that there are only 40,000 Palestinian refugees, noting they are the Palestinians who left their home land in 1948 and remain alive today and not their descendants.

US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reported to have tried to pressure Jordan to strip more than two million Palestinians of refugee status in a move that aims to end the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Babylon the Great Anticipates Iranian Attacks

U.S. Military Says It’s on ‚High Level of Alert‘ with Iran, Contradicting Its Own Coalition

By Tom O’Connor On 5/14/19 at 6:25 PM EDT

The U.S. military has asserted its forces were on a heightened level of alert amid soaring tensions with Iran, directly contradicting a spokesperson for its own coalition in the region.

The Pentagon’s Central Command, which is tasked with overseeing operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, called out the United Kingdom’s Army Major General Christopher Ghika, deputy commander for stability of the joint land forces of the U.S.-led coalition — known officially as Operation Inherent Resolve — against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), after he told reporters earlier Tuesday that „there has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.“

In a statement later that same day, Central Command spokesperson Captain Bill Urban said Ghika’s comments „run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.“

„U.S. Central Command, in coordination with Operation Inherent Resolve, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria,“ Urban said. „As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to U.S. forces in Iraq.“

An F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, May 10, in the Red Sea. The force was sent ahead of scheduled based on U.S. reports of alleged „troubling and escalatory indications and warnings“ disputed by Iran as a deliberate attempt to provoke a war. Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dan Snow/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The Pentagon’s rare public rebuke of its own close ally came as the U.S. military’s focus in the region shifted away from ISIS, whose last major stronghold was taken by coalition-backed, Syrian Kurdish-led forces in March, and toward the presence of Iran. Though the U.S. and Iran both contributed extensively to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they have accused one another of solely advancing their own interests in the Middle East.

Central Command sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East based on White House national security adviser John Bolton’s after announced „troubling and escalatory indications and warnings“ of an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests. A week after this was revealed, unclaimed attacks damaged up to four commercial oil tankers Sunday in the Gulf of Oman, less than 100 miles away from the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important maritime oil traffic chokepoint and already the subject of frictions between Washington and Tehran.

On the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal based on accusations that Iran used sanctions relief to fund militant groups and ballistic missile development, Tehran announced Wednesday that it was stepping away from some of its own commitments. Though the United Nations has repeatedly verified Iran was adhering to the agreement still backed by China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, the U.S. has introduced extensive sanctions designed to disrupt Iran’s international trade.

At a meeting attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top diplomats of the European entities within that signed the Iran deal, U.K. Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters, „we are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended, really on either side.“ While Pompeo asserted that „there is no daylight between our two countries on the threat emanating from the Iranian regime,“ Hunt asserted that the „U.K. has continued to support the nuclear deal, which is a key achievement of the global nonproliferation architecture, because we believe it’s in our shared security interests.“

Tehran, backed by Beijing and Moscow, has called on Europe, however, to live up to its end of the nuclear deal and normalize trade in the face of Washington’s unilateral pressure. Iranian officials such as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.N. envoy Majid Takht Ravanchi have also dismissed reports of Iranian plans to attack U.S. interests as deliberate attempts to provoke a war between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Newsweek was able to confirm Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had drawn up plans for a potential attack on Iran, revising both offensive and retaliatory options on Bolton’s orders. The move would allegedly signal an attempt to force Iran into negotiations for a new nuclear deal, though the Trump administration’s tactics have so far only been met with stiffer resistance from Iran.

Though Trump dismissed an earlier New York Times report on the alleged plans for Iran as „fake news,“ he asserted he would „absolutely“ do such a thing, and would „send a hell of a lot more troops than“ the figure of 120,000 initially reported. Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, called Trump out on Twitter that same day.

You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache,“ Ashena tweeted in an apparent reference to Bolton. „Good luck in 2020!“

Preparing for World War III (Revelation 16)

White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War

New York Times

May 13, 2019

The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last week in the Persian Gulf. As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier and more naval firepower to the gulf region.U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

[To follow new military deployments to the Middle East, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have sharply increased. John Bolton, the national security adviser, has long pushed for regime change in Iran. One of his chosen replacements is the dissident group Mujahedeen Khalq, known as M.E.K.Doug Mills/The New York Times

The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Mr. Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.

It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans. On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Mr. Trump said: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

There are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.

Some senior American officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.

European allies who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that they worry that tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.

More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Mr. Shanahan and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.

The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

But two of the American national security officials said Mr. Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.

Since John R. Bolton became the national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran.

Credit

Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Since John R. Bolton became the national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran.

Credit

Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Several oil tankers were reportedly attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, raising fears that shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf could become flash points. “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, asked about the episode.

Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and American officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.

In Brussels, Mr. Pompeo met with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, cosignatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. He did not speak to the media, but the European officials said they had urged restraint upon Washington, fearing accidental escalation that could lead to conflict with Iran.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary.

The Iranian government has not threatened violence recently, but last week, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would walk away from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement a year ago, but European nations have urged Iran to stick with the deal and ignore Mr. Trump’s provocations.

The high-level review of the Pentagon’s plans was presented during a meeting about broader Iran policy. It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack American forces.

As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery and more naval firepower to the gulf region.

At last week’s meeting, Mr. Shanahan gave an overview of the Pentagon’s planning, then turned to General Dunford to detail various force options, officials said. The uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.

Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Mr. Shanahan; Mr. Bolton; General Dunford; Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday in an email. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”

The reduction of forces in the Middle East in recent years has been propelled by a new focus on China, Russia and a so-called Great Powers competition. The most recent National Defense Strategy — released before Mr. Bolton joined the Trump administration — concluded that while the Middle East remains important, and Iran is a threat to American allies, the United States must do more to ensure a rising China does not upend the world order.

As recently as late April, an American intelligence analysis indicated that Iran had no short-term desire to provoke a conflict. But new intelligence reports, including intercepts, imagery and other information, have since indicated that Iran was building up its proxy forces’ readiness to fight and was preparing them to attack American forces in the region.

The new intelligence reports surfaced on the afternoon of May 3, Mr. Shanahan told Congress last week. On May 5, Mr. Bolton announced the first of new deployments to the Persian Gulf, including bombers and an aircraft carrier.

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which was designated a terrorist group by the Trump administration last month.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which was designated a terrorist group by the Trump administration last month.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It is not clear to American intelligence officials what changed Iran’s posture. But intelligence and Defense Department officials said American sanctions have been working better than originally expected, proving far more crippling to the Iranian economy — especially after a clampdown on all oil exports that was announced last month.

Also in April, the State Department designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization over objections from Pentagon and intelligence officials who feared reprisals from the Iranian military.

While much of the new intelligence appears to have focused on Iran readying its proxy forces, officials said they believed the most likely cause of a conflict will follow a provocative act, or outright attack, by the Revolutionary Guards’ navy. The Guards’ fleet of small boats has a history of approaching American Navy ships at high speed. Revolutionary Guards commanders have precarious control over their ill-disciplined naval forces.

Part of the updated planning appears to focus on what military action the United States might take if Iran resumes its nuclear fuel production, which has been frozen under the 2015 agreement. It would be difficult for the Trump administration to make a case that the United States was under imminent nuclear peril; Iran shipped 97 percent of its fuel out of the country in 2016, and currently does not have enough to make a bomb.

That could change if Iran resumes enriching uranium. But it would take a year or more to build up a significant quantity of material, and longer to fashion it into a weapon. That would allow, at least in theory, plenty of time for the United States to develop a response — like a further cutoff of oil revenues, covert action or military strikes.

The previous version of the Pentagon’s war plan included a classified subset code-named Nitro Zeus, a cyberoperation that called for unplugging Iran’s major cities, its power grid and its military.

The idea was to use cyberweapons to paralyze Iran in the opening hours of any conflict, in hopes that it would obviate the need to drop any bombs or conduct a traditional attack. That plan required extensive presence inside Iran’s networks — called “implants” or “beacons” — that would pave the way for injecting destabilizing malware into Iranian systems.

Two officials said those plans have been constantly updated in recent years.

But even a cyberattack, without dropping bombs, carries significant risk. Iran has built up a major corps of its own, one that successfully attacked financial markets in 2012, a casino in Las Vegas and a range of military targets. American intelligence officials told Congress in January that Iranian hackers are now considered sophisticated operators who are increasingly capable of striking United States targets.

Since Mr. Bolton became national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran. The animus against Iran’s leaders dates back at least to his days as an official in the George W. Bush administration. Later, as a private citizen, Mr. Bolton called for military strikes on Iran, as well as regime change.

The newly updated plans were not the first time during the Trump administration that Mr. Bolton has sought military options to strike Iran.

This year, Defense Department and senior American officials said Mr. Bolton sought similar guidance from the Pentagon last year, after Iranian-backed militants fired three mortar rounds or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the United States Embassy in Baghdad in September.

In response to Mr. Bolton’s request, which alarmed Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, the Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic.

But Mr. Mattis and other military leaders adamantly opposed retaliation for the Baghdad attack, successfully arguing that it was insignificant.

Edward Wong and David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

A version of this article appears in print on May 13, 2019, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: White House Reviews Iran Plan For 120,000 Troops if Attacked. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

The historic moments, head-spinning developments and inside-the-White House intrigue.

Babylon the Great Prepares for a BIG War Against Iran

NYT: White House reviews plan that would send up to 120,000 US troops to Middle East

Updated 8:50 AM EDT May 14, 2019
Washington

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a military plan at a meeting of top national security officials last week that would send as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran strikes American forces in the region or speeds up its development of nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported Monday.

The Times said the plan, which does not call for a land invasion of Iran, was ordered in part by national security adviser John Bolton.

Citing administration officials, the Times said it is unknown whether President Donald Trump has been briefed on the plan, including the number of troops. The Times said the meeting occurred days after the Trump administration cited „specific and credible“ intelligence last week that suggested Iranian forces and proxies were targeting US forces in Syria, Iraq and at sea.

The meeting included Bolton, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, according to the Times.

The paper said the number of the troops discussed „has shocked some who have been briefed on them“ and noted that the figure is close to the number of US troops that invaded Iraq in 2003.

A number of senior administration officials told the paper that even in its early stages, the plan shows „how dangerous the threat from Iran has become,“ while other officials „who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.“

A senior administration official confirmed to CNN that potential military plans to send additional US troops to the region were reviewed last week during a meeting at the White House with the national security team, but did not say what the number of troops in that force would be.

Another senior administration official told reporters last week that if Iran does not remain in the 2015 nuclear deal, the White House would consider taking additional action beyond sanctions.

When asked by a reporter if the Pentagon would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if they go above 20% purity enrichment 60 days from now, the official said, „The President has been very clear that when the security of the American people are threatened, all options are on the table.“

They added that Trump is „certainly not going to constrain his options if the Iranians take an action he thought was unacceptable.“

Asked about the report Tuesday on „New Day,“ Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said such talk amounted to „psychological warfare“ by the US.

„We are not in the business of trying to create conflict in our neighborhood, because nobody is going to have benefit from such a conflict in our region except for a few — as I explained earlier — some people in Washington and some countries in our neighborhood,“ Ravanchi told CNN’s John Berman.

The report comes as the White House closely monitors new developments in Iran. Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country was partially withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal — known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — but would not fully withdraw, amid heightened pressure from the US in recent weeks.

It also comes days after US officials said the Pentagon’s decision to move an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the region was a result of intelligence that showed that Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf.

The concerns over the movement of the missiles was one of multiple threads of intelligence from various sources that led the US to believe Iran had a capability and intention to launch strikes against US targets.

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The Growing Nuclear Threat (Revelation 8)

Photo Courtesy: India Prime Minister’s Official Website

Dangerous tensions growing in India & Pakistan – The nuclear threats need to stop

Posted By Ottavia Credi on May 13, 2019

Tensions between India and Pakistan are heating up. Because of the forthcoming general elections, India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been engaging in rather aggressive rhetoric.

On April 21st, Modi alluded to the fact that India’s nuclear weapons are not intended for a fireworks show, insinuating his country might, at some point, use its nukes. Just a few days before, he had warned Pakistan that India owned the “mother of nuclear bombs.”

Despite Pakistan’s apparent efforts to present itself as the more rational party, by describing nuclear power as an instrument for stability rather than an impelling threat, its leaders have embittered their rhetoric, too. On April 29th, Major General Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan’s Director-General of Inter-Services Public Relations, warned New Delhi “not to test [Pakistan’s] resolve.”

But how did we reach this point again?

The latest event that shook India’s order was a terrorist attack perpetrated by Pakistani terrorists belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed group which, in February, killed forty Indian military officers in the Pulwama region. India responded with a series of airstrikes in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In the last three decades, Pakistan has taken advantage of terrorist organizations residing in its territory to attack India, without taking responsibility for the assaults. Asif Ghafoor denied, for instance, any involvement of the Pakistani government with the latest Pulwama attacks. What’s more, because of the widespread support for the Kashmiri independence movement, Pakistan hasn’t even had to invest significant resources in its fight against India.

Even though its delivery systems are not particularly advanced, Pakistan’s nuclear forces are stronger than India’s. The same cannot be said about conventional forces. However, because of India’s nuclear inferiority, New Delhi cannot risk crossing a line that could lead Pakistan to deploy its nuclear weapons. India then finds itself in an uncomfortable position, stuck between the urge to respond to the terrorist attacks, and the risk of overstepping a fatal boundary.

Some suggest a possible solution to the problem might be India’s achievement of nuclear superiority. If India’s nuclear forces were significantly stronger than Pakistan’s, New Delhi could perhaps attempt to intervene against the Pakistani terrorist groups without fearing a nuclear repercussion.

Such argument is however fundamentally contradictory with the principles of the NPT, which the US and the vast majority of the international community supports. It is in fact in everyone’s best interest not to have either India or Pakistan build more nuclear arms. The international community should commit to engage with both countries diplomatically, and disregard any strategy that would inevitably lead to nuclear proliferation.

India has, in the past, provided some sort of reassurances to the international community. In 2005, for instance, New Delhi signed a 123 Agreement with the US to prove its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. India has also declared to adhere to a no first use policy, as well as a doctrine of minimum credible deterrent. Pakistan, on the other hand, has never proclaimed a clear nuclear doctrine and, while it has declared its nuclear forces are solely intended for deterrence purposes, it also does not maintain a no first use doctrine.

Pakistan’s deterrence capabilities have recently been increased through the introduction of Nasr, a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile system, mostly aimed at countering India’s “Cold Start” strategy, a method for fighting under the nuclear threshold based on the rapid mobilization of military groups into Pakistani territory. On its part, though, India is equipped with a strong nuclear triad, which Pakistan doesn’t have.

Both countries have the potential to destroy the other. The constant threats spouted by both parties need to stop. Just like they need to stop talking about nuclear weapons as if they’re just another tool of state power. Despite what might be India’s assumptions, the actual deployment of nuclear weapons in the region wouldn’t just make Pakistan “weep” – it would lead to both countries’ annihilation.

Perhaps, the international community could take a more active position in the feud, besides merely calling for calm, peace and dialogue. The US, which has typically assisted in easing the tensions between the two countries, lately doesn’t seem to want to get involved. External assistance might, however, prove to be of vital importance, in a conflict which has been dragging itself for years and whose conclusion threatens to actualize the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction.