Palestinians Continue to Protest Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP
FILE- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and David Friedman, the United States Ambassador to Israel attend a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem on May 21, 2017.
FILE- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and David Friedman, the United States Ambassador to Israel attend a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem on May 21, 2017.

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

 

Living on the Fault Line

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

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********************

Planning for the Big One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saudi Arabia Continues to Go Nuclear (Daniel 7)

Image result for saudi missilesExclusive: US intel shows Saudi Arabia escalated its missile program with help from China

Updated 6:01 PM ET, Wed June 5, 2019

Washington (CNN)The US government has obtained intelligence that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, a development that threatens decades of US efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East.

The Trump administration did not initially disclose its knowledge of this classified development to key members of Congress, the sources said, infuriating Democrats who discovered it outside of regular US government channels and concluded it had been deliberately left out of a series of briefings where they say it should have been presented.
The previously unreported classified intelligence indicates Saudi Arabia has expanded both its missile infrastructure and technology through recent purchases from China.
The discovery of the Saudi efforts has heightened concerns among members of Congress over a potential arms race in the Middle East, and whether it signals a tacit approval by the Trump administration as it seeks to counter Iran. The intelligence also raises questions about the administration’s commitment to non-proliferation in the Middle East and the extent to which Congress is kept abreast of foreign policy developments in a volatile region.
The development comes amid growing tensions between Congress and the White House over Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia Fast Facts

Saudi Arabia Fast Facts
Despite bipartisan criticism over the Kingdom’s war in Yemen and its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the White House has sought an even closer relationship with the Saudis, as evidenced by its recent decision to sell the Kingdom billions of dollars in weapons and munitions despite opposition in Congress.
While the Saudis‘ ultimate goal has not been conclusively assessed by US intelligence, the sources said, the missile advancement could mark another step in potential Saudi efforts to one day deliver a nuclear warhead were it ever to obtain one.
The Kingdom’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, has made clear that should Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, Saudi would work to do the same, telling 60 Minutes in a 2018 interview that, „Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.“
Though Saudi is among the biggest buyers of US weapons, it is barred from purchasing ballistic missiles from the US under regulations set forth by the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal, multi-country pact aimed at preventing the sale of rockets capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.
Yet the Saudis have consistently taken the position that they need to match Iran’s missile capability and have at times sought help on the side from other countries, including China, which is not a signatory to the pact.
Saudi Arabia is known to have purchased ballistic missiles from China several decades ago, and public reports speculated that more purchases may have been made as recently as 2007. The Kingdom has never been assessed to have the ability to build its own missiles or even effectively deploy the ones it does have.
Instead, the Saudis‘ arsenal of Chinese-made ballistic missiles was a way to signal its potential military strength to regional foes, primarily Iran.
That, the sources told CNN, has shifted based on the new intelligence.

US-supplied air power

For decades, the US worked to ensure that Saudi Arabia had air supremacy in the region, largely through its purchases of American military aircraft, precisely so that it wouldn’t seek to go around the US to upgrade its missile capabilities.
„Saudi Arabia needn’t race Iran to produce or procure ballistic missiles. It already has a significant conventional military advantage,“ said Behnam Taleblu of the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
But questions have arisen in recent months about whether that rationale still stands, particularly as the Trump administration has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Kingdom faces ballistic missile threats from Iran proxies in Yemen.
Satellite imagery, first reported by the Washington Post in January, suggested the Kingdom had constructed a ballistic missile factory. Analysts who viewed the images said they appeared to match technology produced by the Chinese.

Satellite imagery captured on November 13, 2018 shows a suspected ballistic missile factory at a missile base in al-Watah, Saudi Arabia. Image was initially discovered by Planet Labs and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

A second image of the same missile facility obtained by CNN shows a similar level of activity at the site on May 14, 2019, according to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute.
„Saudi Arabia’s reported interest in domestic ballistic missile production should rightly raise eyebrows,“ Taleblu said. „Both the reported missile base and Riyadh’s interest in a domestic fuel cycle indicates, however nascent, a desire to hedge against Iran.“
The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on any intelligence related to Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile activity or whether the US believes the Kingdom is contracting in that area with foreign partners.
A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in the US did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China and Saudi Arabia are „comprehensive strategic partners,“ and that both countries „maintain friendly cooperation in all areas, including in the area of arms sales. Such cooperation does not violate any international laws, nor does it involve the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.“
A State Department official declined to comment on classified intelligence matters, but told CNN that Saudi Arabia remains a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has accepted an obligation never to acquire nuclear weapons. The spokesperson also pointed to a recent statement by a US State Department official reaffirming the US commitment to „the goal of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems.“
Sources said there has been no indication from the administration that there has been an explicit policy shift as it relates to non-proliferation of ballistic missiles in Saudi, but noted the administration’s awareness of the intelligence — and lack of concrete action to halt the advances since it was obtained.

Beyond satellite imagery

US intelligence agencies constantly monitor foreign ballistic missile development and the flow of materials around the world. Related intelligence is analyzed on a daily basis and any significant change would likely make it into the Presidential Daily Briefing, according to two former senior US intelligence officials.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has been given access to the Saudi intelligence, though it has not received a specific briefing on the subject, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has oversight of the State Department and US foreign policy broadly, learned about the Saudi intelligence earlier this year only after it was discovered by Democratic staff on the committee, including in one instance when a staff member on an unrelated trip to the Middle East was informed of details through a foreign counterpart, two of the sources told CNN.
There had already been at least two classified briefings on issues related to the topic where the information could have been disclosed to senators, according to one source.
When the staff brought the new information to the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, he immediately requested– and was granted– a classified, senators-only briefing for committee members on the details, a rare occurrence that underscored the importance of the discovery and the administration’s failure to initially brief the committee on the matter.
Several sources said the analysis presented in the classified briefing, held on April 9, went far beyond the January Washington Post story about the satellite images, and provided concrete evidence that Saudi Arabia has advanced its missile program to a point that would run in direct conflict with long-established US policy to limit proliferation in the region.
The day after the classified briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified publicly in front of the committee as part of a routine hearing on the State Department budget.
Over the course of a few hours, the dispute over intelligence sharing began to spill out into the open, turning a relatively benign budget hearing into a debate over a potentially crucial shift in US policy over missile proliferation in the Middle East.
Though at the time, it was hard to notice.
Without going into specifics, Menendez castigated Pompeo for the administration’s decision not to share classified information with the committee until it was brought to the administration by the senator himself.
„That’s simply unacceptable,“ Menendez told the country’s top diplomat, adding that if Congress is to perform its constitutional duties, the State Department „needs to do a better job of engaging with us, briefing us and responding to our requests.“
Later in the hearing, three other Democratic senators obliquely referenced the issue in their questions to Pompeo, citing public reports related to Saudi ballistic missile ambitions.

Sen. Kaine asks Pompeo about Saudi missiles

Neither the senators nor Pompeo mentioned the previous day’s briefing, or that their questions or answers were based on specific intelligence.
But in hindsight, the exchanges shed light on the Trump administration’s hardline position that countering Iran is the ultimate priority in the region — regardless of long-held US non-proliferation positions.
In his responses, Pompeo made clear the administration’s preference that Saudi Arabia buy US technology, a possible nod, multiple US officials said, to internal opposition inside the Trump administration to restrictions on US sales of ballistic missiles to the Kingdom.
„There’ve been those who’ve urged the United States to take a different posture with respect to Saudi Arabia, not to sell them technology,“ Pompeo said. „I think you see the risks that are created. It would be better if the United States was involved in those transactions than if China was.“
While Pompeo acknowledged under questioning that it is still US policy to oppose proliferation of ballistic missile technology in the Middle East, a telling exchange occurred later.

Sen. Udall asks Pompeo about Saudi and Chinese missiles

Sen. Udall asks Pompeo about Saudi and Chinese missiles
Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, citing the Washington Post report on the satellite images, asked what the US was doing to prevent foreign sales of ballistic missile technology to Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo made clear, intentionally or not, a prevailing administration position that has guided much of its policy in the region — including its knowledge of the expanding Saudi ballistic missile program.
„This is certainly something that we all need to keep an eye on,“ Pompeo said, before adding that „most of the folks who are working to build out missile systems“ were doing so in direct response to Iran’s ability to continue to enhance its missile program under the 2015 nuclear accord.
„Others are doing what they need to do to create a deterrence tool for themselves,“ Pompeo said. „It’s just a fact.“
Udall, who a source confirmed had been in the classified briefing the day prior, responded after a pause by pressing the administration to stick to the long-held US policy to deter missile proliferation in Saudi „Well, I very much hope that the administration will push back in terms of what’s happening in missiles across the Middle East.“

Tensions over Saudi policy

The new revelations come at a particularly fraught time in the Saudi-U.S. relationship.
Last year, as evidence of the Saudi government’s role in the murder of Khashoggi emerged, GOP Senators including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and then-Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee publicly condemned the Trump administration’s timid response.
„There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,“ Graham said after emerging from a classified briefing in December, referring to reports that the Saudi team had included a forensic expert who arrived in Turkey with equipment to dismember Khashoggi’s body.

Bipartisan group of senators fuming over administration's handling of Khashoggi aftermath

Bipartisan group of senators fuming over administration’s handling of Khashoggi aftermath
In an interview with Axios on HBO that aired on Sunday, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner refused to go into details about his private conversations with the Saudi crown prince, and maintained that the Saudis are a key ally in helping the US contain Iran.
Asked whether he would join Khashoggi’s fiancée in calling on the Saudi government to release Khashoggi’s body, Kushner demurred, saying the decision „would be up to the Secretary of State“ and that „we’ll do everything we can to try to bring transparency and accountability for what happened.“
Anger over the administration’s handling of the Khashoggi murder led to bipartisan support for resolutions to end US involvement in the war in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition has been accused of indiscriminately bombing civilians. The conflict has resulted in widespread famine and put an estimated 14 million people at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.
In March, lawmakers pushed through the House and Senate a measure that would’ve forced Trump to get permission from Congress before allowing the US military to aid Saudi Arabia in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Lawmakers were ultimately unable to override Trump’s veto.
Tensions between the administration and lawmakers were again exacerbated by the administration’s May 24 announcement that it would declare an emergency over escalating tensions with Iran in order to bypass Congress to complete an $8.1 billion sale of weapons, munitions, intelligence and maintenance to various countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE.
A bipartisan group of seven senators, including Menendez and Graham, on Wednesday said they were introducing resolutions to block all 22 arms sales tied to the administration’s move.
There is also an ongoing bipartisan effort to finalize a new sanctions package targeting Saudi Arabia — one opposed on its face by the Trump administration, which tends to cast its view of the Kingdom as a binary choice: you either support Saudi Arabia or you support Iran.
For Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sharp critic of the administration’s Saudi policy, the choice is not that simple when it comes to ballistic missile proliferation.
„I think it’s a total misread of the region to think that the Saudis are the good guys in this equation. The Iranians do really awful things in the region. But so do the Saudis. „
Murphy declined to comment on the Saudi missile intelligence he received during the April 9 briefing, but was willing to address the broader issue, including the long-term implications should the US abandon its policy of missile deterrence in the Middle East.
„For decades the US has had a policy of trying to quell, not ignite an arms race in the Middle East, and for good reason,“ said Murphy. „It stands to reason we would want less weapons pointed at each other.“

‚It was egregious‘

The whole incident puts the panel’s Republican chairman, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, in a tricky spot. Compared to his predecessor Corker, an avid Trump critic, Risch has refrained from criticizing the administration, and has attempted to strike a balance between tending the concerns of angry committee members while also trying not to undercut Trump’s foreign policy strategy.
Risch, who also sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, dismissed complaints that the intelligence omission was intentional and chalked it up to a simple oversight, given the sheer volume of information the intelligence community gathers each day.

Trump ally caught in crossfire as White House clashes with GOP over Saudi Arabia

Trump ally caught in crossfire as White House clashes with GOP over Saudi Arabia
„There’s no doubt that factual matters that the intelligence community has sometimes don’t get into the hands of senators simply because there is too much of it,“ Risch told CNN, noting that he hadn’t received any complaints from Republican members of the panel. „It’s not intentional at all. It’s just simply that it can’t be done.“
Menendez doesn’t buy into that theory.
„You can’t lose track of something like this,“ said Menendez, who would not discuss the topic of the underlying intelligence at issue. „It was egregious.“
Menendez is now pressuring the administration to provide a classified briefing on the issue for all 100 senators.
While frustrations over access to classified information by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee go back years, they have become particularly acute during the Trump administration, senators and aides interviewed for this story said.
„I think our [intelligence community] knows a lot and they don’t want to tell us,“ said Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who declined to address the specific subject matter. Kaine noted that there are a series of issues — several related specifically to Saudi, including authorizations to sell civilian nuclear technology to the country — that have remained shrouded in secrecy, despite repeated requests to the administration to provide briefings or documentation.
Kaine on Tuesday revealed for the first time at least two of the technology sales occurred after Khashoggi’s murder, including one that was finalized just 16 days after the journalist was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Democratic senators want intelligence community to submit report on Khashoggi's murder

Democratic senators want intelligence community to submit report on Khashoggi’s murder
The divide between Congress and the administration on Saudi has led to increasingly hostile receptions for Trump officials who come to Capitol Hill to testify. It’s also one that has largely left the US public in the dark as to the administration’s actions with its closest allies in the region.
For at least one Democratic Senator who spoke on condition of anonymity even as he declined to address the underlying Saudi intelligence, it’s all part of a broader trend of the administration refusing to share intelligence with Congress.
The administration „has taken a position of: you don’t need to know anything,“ the senator said. „Which, of course, is constitutionally inaccurate.“

Even the IAEA Admits Iran is Nuking Up (Daniel 8:4)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (3rd Left) is shown nuclear technology in Tehran, Iran (9 April 2019)
Image caption Iran said last month that it would quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium

Iran has increased production of enriched uranium – IAEA

The head of the global nuclear watchdog has confirmed Iran is increasing its production of enriched uranium.

But International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said it was not clear when they will reach a limit set under a 2015 international deal.

Iran announced last month that it would suspend some commitments in retaliation for sanctions reinstated by the US.

Mr Amano also said he was worried about the current tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue and called for dialogue.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later said reducing tensions was only possible by stopping what he called the „economic war by America“.

„Those who wage such wars cannot expect to remain safe,“ he told a news conference during a visit to Tehran by his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

Mr Maas warned that the situation in the region was „highly explosive and extremely serious“ and could lead to a military escalation between the US and Iran.

How have tensions risen?

US President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal last year and reinstated sanctions that had been lifted in return for Iran limiting its nuclear activities.

Then last month, he ended exemptions from US secondary sanctions for countries that continued buying oil from Iran. This decision was intended to bring Iranian oil exports to zero, denying their government its main source of revenue.

Media captionThe BBC’s Paul Adams looks at the recent developments behind the US-Iran tensions

Days later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country was rolling back some restrictions under the deal. This included no longer complying with caps on its stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water – set at 300kg and 130 tonnes respectively – and halting sales of surplus supplies overseas.

Enriched uranium is used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear weapons, while spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor contains plutonium that would be suitable for a bomb.

Mr Rouhani also gave the other five states still party to the nuclear deal – Germany, the UK, France, China and Russia – until 7 July to protect Iranian oil sales from US sanctions. Otherwise Iran will suspend its restrictions on the purity of enriched uranium.

At the same time, the White House sent an aircraft carrier strike group, B-52 bombers, and a Patriot missile defence battery to the Gulf because of „troubling and escalatory indications“ related to Iran.

A handout photo made available by the US Navy shows the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and part of the Bomber Task Force deployed to the region, conducting joint exercises in the US Central Command area of responsibility, in the Arabian Sea (1 June 2019)
Image caption The US has deployed B-52 bombers and a carrier strike group to the region

Iran was subsequently accused by the US of being behind attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates; two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia; and the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where many foreign embassies are located. Iran denied the allegations.

Then, on 20 May, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced that it would quadruple its production of low-enriched uranium and had informed the IAEA, which is tasked with monitoring Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal.

What have the IAEA said?

On Monday, the nuclear watchdog’s chief confirmed that Iran had increased its production rate. But Mr Amano declined to specify by how much and said it was not clear when the stockpile limit would be exceeded.

He told the IAEA’s Board of Governors it was essential that Iran fully implemented its commitments under the nuclear deal.

File photo showing International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano at the organisation's headquarters in Vienna on 22 November 2018
Image captionIAEA chief Yukiya Amano said he was worried about the tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue

„As I have constantly emphasised, the nuclear-related commitments entered into by Iran under the [deal] represent a significant gain for nuclear verification,“ he said. „I therefore hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue.“

Germany’s Foreign Minister stressed that European powers wanted to fulfil their obligations under the deal and were attempting to provide Iran with alternative ways to trade.

„We cannot work miracles, but we will try to avert a failure,“ Mr Maas said.

The Europeans have set up a „special purpose vehicle“ that would essentially allow goods to be bartered between Iranian and foreign companies without direct financial transactions. But the mechanism – known as Instex – is not yet operational.

Another Medic Dies Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Gazan medic said to succumb to wounds caused by Israeli fire

Mohammed al-Judeili was hit by a rubber bullet at a border protest in May, Hamas-run ministry says; IDF says it is looking into incident

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops on the Gaza border, May 3, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

A Palestinian medic succumbed to wounds he sustained from a rubber bullet fired by Israeli security forces last month, during a weekly protest in the border region between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Monday.

Thirty-six-year-old Mohammed al-Judeili, who worked for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, was hit by a rubber bullet in the face on Friday, May 3, while carrying out humanitarian work during a protest in the border area in northern Gaza, the ministry said in a statement.

An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the incident, but noted the army was looking into it.

Judeili was hit in the nose by the rubber bullet, which caused fractures in his skull, the Palestine Red Crescent said in a statement on its Facebook page.

He died at a hospital in Hebron, a large city in the West Bank, the Palestine Red Crescent stated, adding that his remains were being transferred back to Gaza for burial.

Videos posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be a motorcade of Palestine Red Crescent vans on their way to the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Judeili, who was a father to four children, was a resident of the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Since March 30, 2018, weekly Friday protests, which have included many violent acts, have taken place in the border region.

Their organizers have said the protests aim to achieve the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now part of Israel, and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.

Israeli officials maintain that the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants would destroy Israel’s Jewish character. They also contend that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.

Israeli security officials have repeatedly called on Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border fence between Israel and the coastal enclave.

Both the Hamas-run Health Ministry and the Palestine Red Crescent did not say in their statements how far Judeili was from the fence when the rubber bullet impacted him.

Spokespersons for the ministry and the Palestine Red Crescent did not respond to phone calls.

Medics at the protests, however, have often approached the fence to help Palestinians wounded by Israeli fire.

Since the protests commenced, Israeli security forces have killed four Palestinian medical workers, according to the Gaza ministry.