The Sixth Seal Is Past Due (Revelation 6:12)

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New York City is Past Due for an Earthquake

by , 03/22/11

filed under: News

New York City may appear to be an unlikely place for a major earthquake, but according to history, we’re past due for a serious shake. Seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that about once every 100 years, an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 rocks the Big Apple. The last one was a 5.3 tremor that hit in 1884 — no one was killed, but buildings were damaged.

Any tremor above a 6.0 magnitude can be catastrophic, but it is extremely unlikely that New York would ever experience a quake like the recent 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A study by the Earth Observatory found that a 6.0 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and a 7.0 magnitude hits about every 3,400 years.

There are several fault lines in New York’s metro area, including one along 125th Street, which may have caused two small tremors in 1981 and a 5.2 magnitude quake in 1737. There is also a fault line on Dyckman Street in Inwood, and another in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigationrates the chance of an earthquake hitting the city as moderate.

John Armbruster, a seismologist at the Earth Observatory, said that if a 5.0 magnitude quake struck New York today, it would result in hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in damages. The city’s skyscrapers would not collapse, but older brick buildings and chimneys would topple, likely resulting in casualities.

The Earth Observatory is expanding its studies of potential earthquake damage to the city. They currently have six seismometers at different landmarks throughout the five boroughs, and this summer, they plan to place one at the arch in Washington Square Park and another in Bryant Park.

Won-Young Kim, who works alongside Armbuster, says his biggest concern is that we can’t predict when an earthquake might hit. “It can happen anytime soon,” Kim told the Metro. If it happened tomorrow, he added, “I would not be surprised. We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

Armbuster voiced similar concerns to the Daily News. “Will there be one in my lifetime or your lifetime? I don’t know,” he said. “But this is the longest period we’ve gone without one.”

Via Metro and NY Daily News

Images © Ed Yourdon

Pakistan and the Nuclear Triad (Revelation 8)

Importance Of Nuclear Submarines For Pakistan – OpEd

A submarine is a very powerful platform, because of its stealth features and ability to operate covertly. It plays vital role in naval warfare and as a strategic weapon carrier. It can operate under water for a considerable duration, hence cannot be easily detected; therefore it has become an essential constituent of modern navies.

Submarines (subs) are of four types, which differ mainly because of their propulsion system and weapons carried on board. Diesel powered attack submarines (SSK) while on surface use diesel engines for propulsion, and while traversing under water it runs on batteries which have limited endurance. To recharge, conventional subs have to come up to periscope depth for snorkeling very often, keeping in view battery conditions. It is very vulnerable while snorkeling; chances of detection by Anti-Submarine Warfare Forces (ASW) like maritime patrol aircraft, helicopter, and surface platforms are very high. It is relevant to mention that subs have no weapons against the aircrafts.

The endurance of SSKs has been increased by installing Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. This allows additional submerged time and is particularly useful during evasion and transiting through areas of concentrated ASW activities. The advent of this technology has enhanced the submerged endurance but is still restricted in speed. The maximum speed is around 15 knots but it moves 3-5 knots while submerged to conserve batteries. These generate very less noise, hence difficult to detect.

Maximum operating depth is around 300 meters and tonnage 1000 to 3500. Weapons carried are anti-ship and anti-submarine torpedoes and sea mines. Also carry medium range (800Km) anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles. Next generation is nuclear propelled attack subs (SSN), nuclear powered guided missiles (SSGN) and nuclear powered ballistic missile carrying subs (SSBN). These have a nuclear power plant for propulsion with almost unlimited endurance, speed around 30 knots on surface as well as submerged, and maximum operating depth more than 500 meters. These are much heavier and noisy as compared to conventional subs. The displacement is from 4000 to 18000 tones. These are designed to remain deployed for much longer duration; only human fatigue is the restrictions. The main role of SSNs and SSGNs is to operate as ASW platforms for a carrier task force and convoy support operations.

SSBNs carry ballistic missiles and are considered as strategic platforms. These are considered ideal platforms for second strike because of their stealth and on patrol in the anticipated areas during tension period and even peace time. However, due to miniaturization of weapons and equipment conventional subs especially with AIP system have also been designed to carry medium range land attack missiles (800Km) with nuclear warheads. Like other strategic assets these also require robust command and control system.

Submarines are considered as sea denial war machines. It is to deny the enemy ability or freedom to use a specified area of the sea for own purposes for specific time period. It may be mentioned that naval mines are also sea denial weapons.

The other important terminology used in naval warfare is Sea Control. It entails establishment of naval superiority in the area where operations are intended to be conducted. It aims to permit relative freedom of action to own forces in a specific area and for given period of time, while denying it for the opposing forces. To achieve sea control presence of naval platforms is considered essential, therefore surface ships especially air craft carriers and maritime patrol aircraft are considered ideal.

Pakistan was the first country of South Asia which acquired a conventional sub from USA in 1964. Pakistan Navy (PN) sub Ghazi, former USS Diablo a Tench class joined PN fleet in June 1964. During 1965 war (6 to 22 Sep) with India she played significant role of sea denial.

According to “Story of Pakistan Navy 1947-1972” p 213-226, the role assigned to PN included seaward defence of ports of Pakistan, keeping sea lines of communication open, escorting merchant ships, protection of coast against amphibious assault, interdiction of shipping and assisting Army in the riverine operations in former East Pakistan. PN Sub Ghazi was deployed off Bombay area to sink heavy units of Indian Navy (IN) that is Aircraft Carrier Vikrant and two heavy cruisers, Delhi and Mysore. She was in position in the morning of 5 Sep. Vikrant and Delhi were refitting in Bombay. Mysore was operational in Cochin harbor. It was assessed that Mysore will move north towards Bombay but it never left Cochin area.

In fact most of the IN units remained in harbor. One submarine had achieved sea denial of the desired area in the classic sense. It facilitated successful bombardment of Dwarka radar station on the night 7/8 Sep from a distance as close as of 6 nautical miles by PN task force comprising cruiser Babur and six destroyers and frigates. The main objective was to destroy radar station, to draw heavy IN units out of Bombay for Ghazi to attack, lower morale of Indians, and to divert Indian air effort away from northern area close to Karachi.

IN ships did not come out therefore, after Dwarka operation Ghazi was assigned patrol off the Indian Kutch coast. On 22 Sep she managed to get an IN frigate as its target. She carried out attack with four torpedoes at 7: 11 pm. The commanding officer( CO), commander( Cdr) K R Niazi ( retired as CNS) and second in command Lt Commander Ahmad Tasnim (retired as Vice Admiral and got second SJ in 1971 war) got gallantry award Sitara e Jurrat ( SJ). Pakistan Navy acquired three Daphne class submarines from France in 1969-70, PNS/M Hangor commanded by Cdr Ahmed Tasnim, was the first to be commissioned on 1 Dec 69. These three subs along with Ghazi participated in 1971 war (3 to 16 Dec) with India. Sub Ghazi commanded by Cdr Zafar Mohammad Khan left harbor on 14 Nov on the assigned mission to lay mines at the entrance of Vishakhapatnam and there after hunt for carrier Vikrant operating in Bay of Bengal.

The remaining three subs left on their mission to patrol along the western coast of India between 15 to 22 Nov at staggered dates. Ghazi during mining operation off Vishakhapatnam got sunk along with 84 crew and no survivors. The nation has not recognized the bravery, courage and sacrifices of the CO and crew by awarding gallantry award (post humus) to any officer and sailor. It may be mentioned here that battery conditions of this sub were not in good state.

The mission far away from home base, transiting along the Indian coast in hostile environments was under taken by the CO and crew beyond the call of duties. Had it been such a long and challenging operation during peace time, the sub may not have been deployed. However, PN has named one establishment and Central Mess in Islamabad on the name of CO, Cdr Zafar. The road crossing in front of naval residential complex Islamabad E 8,has taken the name as Zafar Chowk.

After declaration of hostilities in West Pakistan on 3 Dec, PN submarine Hangor carried out torpedo attack on Indian frigate Khukri on 9 Dec, 30 miles off Kathiawar coast. The frigate sank in few minutes because torpedo hit the explosive magazine. A total 18 officers and 176 sailors including CO who deliberately stayed on the sinking ship as per naval traditions lost their lives. This was first successful attack by a conventional submarine after WW-II. Indian morale had gone down and some of the operations which they had planned using their missile boats were called off. The CO of Hangor Cdr Ahmed Tasnim and 3 officers were awarded SJ and few sailors Tamgha e Jurrat (TJ). These operations amply highlight the significance of subs for a blue water navy.

Realizing the importance of submarines for naval operations and for second nuclear strike, India had embarked upon indigenous construction of conventional as well as nuclear subs as early as 1980s. Two German 209 class ( Shishumar class ) have been built in Magazon Dock Ltd Mumbai in the years 1984- 94. This Shipyard has also manufactured two Scorpion class ( Kalvari class) French patrol submarines, in the years 2010 – 2019 and third of this class is under construction.

For indigenous construction of nuclear sub Advance Technology Vessel (ATV) project was started in early 1980s. It is pertinent to mention that amongst the three elements of the triad, the sub launched ballistic missile (SLBMs) are considered the most important because the nuclear powered ballistic missile sub also known as a boomer in the colloquial language of seamen is the hardest to detect, track and destroy. INS Arihant a SSBN has already joined the Indian Navy and second of this class Aridaman is expected to be commissioned shorty. In addition one nuclear Attack submarine INS Chakra (Ex-Soviet Nerpa) is also on the inventory of IN. India had taken on lease a Charlie class nuclear sub from former Soviet Union from 1988- 91 for operations.

It is obvious that Indian navy has sufficient knowledge of construction and operation of nuclear subs. PN has two Agosta and 3 Agosta 90 B (Khalid class) subs with AIP system. Two have been built in Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW). These have medium range land attack cruise missiles with nuclear warhead. In addition order for 8 latest versions of Chinese conventional subs with AIP system has been placed. Four will be built in Pakistan in KSEW. However, for long range land attack missiles and sustained deployment PN needs to have at least two nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles. Keeping in view Indian second strike capability, our government needs to start the project at the earliest. In the meantime PN may actively consider sending their officers and sailors to China or Russia for training on their nuclear submarines.

*Anjum Sarfraz is a Commodore ( Retd) from Pakistan Navy who has done Phd from Karachi University and working as a Senior Research Fellow in Strategic Vision, Institute, Islamabad.

Trump Is Accelerating Babylon the Great’s Decline

President Trump speaks to reporters at the White House about border security amid a government shutdown on January 3, 2019. (Reuters / Carlos Barria)

Trump Is Accelerating America’s Decline

Global confidence in the US has fallen under the current administration, amid an expanding Chinese-Russian alliance.

By Dilip Hiro Today 7:00 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.

Make America Great Again? Don’t count on it.

Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline—and they weren’t wrong. Trump is capable of tweeting many things, but none of those tweets will stop that process of decline, nor will a trade war with a rising China or fierce oil sanctions on Iran.

You could feel this recently, even in the case of the increasingly pressured Iranians. There, with a single pinprick, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei effectively punctured President Trump’s MAGA balloon and reminded many that, however powerful the United States still was, people in other countries were beginning to look at America differently at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Following a meeting in Tehran with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who brought a message from Trump urging the start of US-Iranian negotiations, Khamenei tweeted, “We have no doubt in [Abe’s] goodwill and seriousness; but regarding what you mentioned from [the] US president, I don’t consider Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with, and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future.” He then added: “We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the US, and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure.”

A flustered Trump was reduced to briefly tweeting: “I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!” And soon after, the president halted at the last minute, in a distinctly humiliating retreat, US air strikes on Iranian missile sites that would undoubtedly have created yet more insoluble problems for Washington across the Greater Middle East.

Keep in mind that, globally, before the ayatollah’s put-down, the Trump administration had already had two abject foreign policy failures: the collapse of the president’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (followed by that regime’s provocative firing of several missiles over the Sea of Japan) and a bungled attempt to overthrow the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

America’s Global Standing at a Record Low

What’s great or small can be defined in absolute or relative terms. America’s “greatness” (or “exceptional” or “indispensable” nature)—much lauded in Washington before the Trump era—should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry. Another way of assessing the nature of that “greatness” and what to make of it would be through polls of how foreigners view the United States.

Take, for instance, a survey released by the Pew Research Group in February 2019. Forty-five percent of respondents in 26 nations with large populations felt that American power and influence posed “a major threat to our country,” while 36 percent offered the same response on Russia, and 35 percent on China. To put that in perspective, in 2013, during the presidency of Barack Obama, only 25 percent of global respondents held such a negative view of the United States, while reactions to China remained essentially the same. Or just consider the most powerful country in Europe, Germany. Between 2013 and 2018, Germans who considered American power and influence a greater threat than that of China or Russia leapt from 19 percent to 49 percent. (Figures for France were similar.)

As for President Trump, only 27 percent of global respondents had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, while 70 percent feared he would not. In Mexico, you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, confidence in his leadership was at a derisory 6 percent. In 17 of the surveyed countries, people who lacked confidence in him were also significantly more likely to consider the United States the world’s top threat, a phenomenon most pronounced among traditional Washington allies like Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.

China’s Expanding Global Footprint

While 39 percent of Pew respondents in that poll still rated the United States as the globe’s leading economic power, 34 percent opted for China. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 to link the infrastructure and trade of much of Southeast Asia, Eurasia, and the Horn of Africa to China (at an estimated cost of four trillion dollars) and to be funded by diverse sources, is going from strength to strength.

One way to measure this: the number of dignitaries attending the biennial BRI Forum in Beijing. The first of those gatherings in May 2017 attracted 28 heads of state and representatives from 100 countries. The most recent, in late April, had 37 heads of state and representatives from nearly 150 countries and international organizations, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Leaders of nine out of 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended, as did four of the five Central Asian republics. Strikingly, a third of the leaders participating came from Europe. According to Peter Frankopan, author of The New Silk Roads, more than 80 countries are now involved in some aspect of the BRI project. That translates into more than 63 percent of the world’s population and 29 percent of its global economic output.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping is intent on expanding the BRI’s global footprint further, a signal of China’s dream of future greatness. During a February two-day state visit to Beijing by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Xi suggested that, when it came to Riyadh’s overly ambitious economic plan, “our two countries should speed up the signing of an implementation plan on connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi Vision 2030.”

Flattered by this proposal, the crown prince defended China’s use of “re-education” camps for Uighur Muslims in its western province of Xinjiang, claiming it was Beijing’s “right” to carry out antiterrorism work to safeguard national security. Under the guise of combating extremism, the Chinese authorities have placed an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in such camps to undergo re-education designed to supplant their Islamic legacy with a Chinese version of socialism. Uighur groups had appealed to Prince bin Salman to take up their cause. No such luck: one more sign of the rise of China in the 21st century.

China Enters the High-Tech Race With America

In 2013, the German government launched an Industry 4.0 Plan meant to fuse cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing with the aim of increasing manufacturing productivity by up to 50 percent, while curtailing resources required by half. Two years later, emulating this project, Beijing published its own 10-year Made in China 2025 plan to update the country’s manufacturing base by rapidly developing 10 high-tech industries, including electric cars and other new-energy vehicles, next-generation information technology and telecommunications, as well as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, aerospace engineering, high-end rail infrastructure, and high-tech maritime engineering.

As with BRI, the government and media then publicized and promoted Made in China 2025 vigorously. This alarmed Washington and America’s high-tech corporations. Over the years, American companies had complained about China’s theft of US intellectual property, the counterfeiting of famous brands, and the stealing of trade secrets, not to speak of the pressuring of American firms in joint ventures with local companies to share technology as a price for gaining access to China’s vast market. Their grievances became more vocal when Donald Trump entered the White House determined to cut Washington’s annual trade deficit of $380 billion with Beijing.

As president, Trump ordered his new trade representative, the sinophobe Robert Lighthizer, to look into the matter. The resulting seven-month investigation pegged the loss US companies experienced because of China’s unfair trade practices at $50 billion a year. That was why, in March 2018, President Trump instructed Lighthizer to levy tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

That signaled the start of a Sino-American trade war which has only gained steam since. In this context, Chinese officials started downplaying the significance of Made in China 2025, describing it as nothing more than an inspirational plan. This March, China’s National People’s Congress even passed a foreign direct-investment law meant to address some of the grievances of US companies. Its implementation mechanism was, however, weak. Trump promptly claimed that China had backtracked on its commitments to incorporate into Chinese law significant changes the two countries had negotiated and put into a draft agreement to end the trade war. He then slapped further tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

The major bone of contention for the Trump administration is a Chinese law specifying that, in a joint venture between a foreign corporation and a Chinese company, the former must pass on technological know-how to its Chinese partner. That’s seen as theft by Washington. According to Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Yukon Huang, author of Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong, however, it’s fully in accord with globally accepted guidelines. Such diffusion of technological know-how has played a significant role in driving growth globally, as the IMF’s 2018 World Economic Outlook report made clear. It’s worth noting as well that China now accounts for almost one-third of global annual economic growth.

The size of China’s market is so vast and the rise in its per capita gross domestic product—from $312 in 1980 to $9,769 in 2018—so steep that major US corporations generally accepted its long-established joint-venture law and that should surprise no one. Last year, for instance, General Motors sold 3,645,044 vehicles in China and fewer than three million in the United States. Little wonder then that, late last year, following GM plant closures across North America, part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan, the company’s management paid no heed to a threat from President Trump to strip GM of any government subsidies. What angered the president, as he tweeted, caught the reality of the moment: Nothing was “being closed in Mexico and China.”

What Trump simply can’t accept is this: After nearly two decades of supply-chain restructuring and global economic integration, China has become the key industrial supplier for the United States and Europe. His attempt to make America great again by restoring the economic status quo ante before 2001—the year China was admitted to the World Trade Organization—is doomed to fail.

In reality, trade war or peace, China is now beginning to overtake the United States in science and technology. A study by Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Richard Freeman of Harvard University noted that, between 2000 and 2016, China’s global share of publications in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics quadrupled and, in the process, exceeded that of the United States for the first time.

In the field of high technology, for example, China is now well ahead of the United States in mobile payment transactions. In the first 10 months of 2017, those totaled $12.8 trillion, the result of vast numbers of consumers discarding credit cards in favor of cashless systems. In stark contrast, according to eMarketer, America’s mobile payment transactions in 2017 amounted to $49.3 billion. Last year, 583 million Chinese used mobile payment systems, with nearly 68 percent of China’s Internet users turning to a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

Russia’s Advanced Weaponry

In a similar fashion, in his untiring pitch for America’s “beautiful” weaponry, President Trump has failed to grasp the impressive progress Russia has made in that field.

While presenting videos and animated glimpses of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and underwater drones in a March 2018 television address, Russian President Vladimir Putin traced the development of his own country’s new weapons to Washington’s decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty with the Soviet Union. In December 2001, encouraged by John Bolton, then under secretary of state for arms control and international security, President George W. Bush had indeed withdrawn from the 1972 ABM treaty on the spurious grounds that the 9/11 attacks had changed the nature of defense for America. His Russian counterpart of the time, the very same Vladimir Putin, described the withdrawal from that cornerstone of world security as a grievous mistake. The head of Russia’s armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, warned then that the pullout would alter the nature of the international strategic balance, freeing up countries to restart arms buildups, both conventional and nuclear.

As it happened, he couldn’t have been more on the mark. The United Statesf is now engaged in a 30-year, trillion-dollar-plus remake and update of its nuclear arsenal, while the Russians (whose present inventory of 6,500 nuclear weapons slightly exceeds America’s) have gone down a similar route. In that televised address of his on the eve of the 2018 Russian presidential election, Putin’s list of new nuclear weapons was headed by the Sarmat, a 30-ton intercontinental ballistic missile, reputedly far harder for an enemy to intercept in its most vulnerable phase just after launching. It also carries a larger number of nuclear warheads than its predecessor.

Another new weapon on his list was a nuclear-powered intercontinental underwater drone, Status-6, a submarine-launched autonomous vehicle with a range of 6,800 miles, capable of carrying a 100 megaton nuclear warhead. And then there was his country’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile with a “practically unlimited” range. In addition, because of its stealth capabilities, it will be hard to detect in flight and its high maneuverability will, theoretically at least, enable it to bypass an enemy’s defenses. Successfully tested in 2018, it does not yet have a name. Unsurprisingly, Putin won the presidency with 77 percent of the vote, a 13 percent rise from the previous poll, on record voter turnout of 67.7 percent.

In conventional weaponry, Russia’s S-400 missile system remains unrivaled. According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, “The S-400 system is an advanced, mobile, surface-to-air defense system of radars and missiles of different ranges, capable of destroying a variety of targets such as attack aircraft, bombs, and tactical ballistic missiles. Each battery normally consists of eight launchers, 112 missiles, and command and support vehicles.” The S-400 missile has a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), and its integrated system is believed to be capable of shooting down up to 80 targets simultaneously.

Consider it a sign of the times, but in defiance of pressure from the Trump administration not to buy Russian weaponry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, ordered the purchase of batteries of those very S-400 missiles. Turkish soldiers are currently being trained on that weapons systems in Russia. The first battery is expected to arrive in Turkey next month.

Similarly, in April 2015, Russia signed a contract to supply S-400 missiles to China. The first delivery of the system took place in January 2018 and China test fired it in August.

An Expanding Beijing-Moscow Alliance

Consider that as another step in Russian-Chinese military coordination meant to challenge Washington’s claim to be the planet’s sole superpower. Similarly, last September, 3,500 Chinese troops participated in Russia’s largest-ever military exercises involving 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships, and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Codenamed Vostok-2018, it took place across a vast region that included the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan. Little wonder that NATO officials described Vostok-2018 as a demonstration of a growing Russian focus on future large-scale conflict: “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time—a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.” Putin attended the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese President Xi was his guest. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres,” he declared, while Xi praised the two countries’ friendship, which, he claimed, was “getting stronger all the time.”

Thanks to climate change, Russia and China are now also working in tandem in the fast-melting Arctic. Last year Russia, which controls more than half the Arctic coastline, sent its first ship through the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaker in winter. Putin hailed that moment as a “big event in the opening up of the Arctic.”

Beijing’s Arctic policy, first laid out in January 2018, described China as a “near-Arctic” state and visualized the future shipping routes there as part of a potential new “Polar Silk Road” that would both be useful for resource exploitation and for enhancing Chinese security. Shipping goods to and from Europe by such a passage would shorten the distance to China by 30 percent compared to present sea routes through the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per voyage.

According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic holds petroleum reserves equal to 412 billion barrels of oil, or about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbons. It also has deposits of rare earth metals. China’s second Arctic vessel, Xuelong 2 (Snow Dragon 2), is scheduled to make its maiden voyage later this year. Russia needs Chinese investment to extract the natural resources under its permafrost. In fact, China is already the biggest foreign investor in Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the region—and the first LNG shipment was dispatched to China’s eastern province last summer via the Northern Sea Route. Its giant oil corporation is now beginning to drill for gas in Russian waters alongside the Russian company Gazprom.

Washington is rattled. In April, in its latest annual report to Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon for the first time included a section on the Arctic, warning of the risks of a growing Chinese presence in the region, including that country’s possible deployment of nuclear submarines there in the future. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a meeting of foreign ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland, to assail China for its “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic.

In an earlier speech, Pompeo noted that, from 2012 to 2017, China invested nearly $90 billion in the Arctic region. “We’re concerned about Russia’s claim over the international waters of the Northern Sea Route, including its newly announced plans to connect it with China’s Maritime Silk Road,” he said. He then pointed out that, along that route, “Moscow already illegally demands other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply with their demands.”

An American Downturn Continues

Altogether, the tightening military and economic ties between Russia and China have put America on the defensive, contrary to Donald Trump’s MAGA promise to American voters in the 2016 campaign. It’s true that, despite fraying diplomatic and economic ties between Washington and Moscow, Trump’s personal relations with Putin remain cordial. (The two periodically exchange friendly phone calls.) But among Russians more generally, a favorable view of the United States fell from 41 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018, according to a Pew Research survey.

There’s nothing new about great powers, even the one that proclaimed itself the greatest in history, declining after having risen high. In our acrimonious times, that’s a reality well worth noting. While launching his bid for reelection recently, Trump proposed a bombastic new slogan: “Keep America Great” (or KAG), as if he had indeed raised America’s stature while in office. He would have been far more on target, however, had he suggested the slogan “Depress America More” (or DAM) to reflect the reality of an unpopular president who faces rising great power rivals abroad.

Iran Plays Russian Roulette with Babylon the Great

Iran ‘Playing With Fire’ After Nuclear Deal Limit Breached

Tehran’s foreign minister claims the country will reverse its decision as soon as Britain, France and Germany fulfill their obligations

Jim Watson—AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Monday that Iran is “playing with fire” after Tehran said it exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington.

Israel urged European states to sanction Iran, while Russia voiced regret but said the move was a consequence of U.S. pressure, which has pushed the deal towards collapse. Britain called on Tehran “to avoid any further steps away” from the landmark deal, and the U.N. said Iran must stick to its commitments under the accord.

“Iran has crossed the 300-kilogram limit based on its plan” announced in May, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told semi-official news agency ISNA. But he also said the move could be reversed.

“They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re playing with and I think they’re playing with fire,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Iran.

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal last year and hit Iran’s crucial oil exports and financial transactions as well as other sectors with biting sanctions. Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, announced on May 8 it would no longer respect the limit set on its enriched uranium and heavy water stockpiles. It threatened to abandon further nuclear commitments unless the remaining partners—Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—helped it circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.

The White House had earlier said “the United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” vowing to continue exerting “maximum pressure” on the regime. “It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The statement added that “even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms,” to which Zarif reacted on Tuesday by tweeting “seriously?”

Zarif insisted Iran had done nothing wrong. “We have NOT violated the #JCPOA,” he tweeted, referring to the deal. He said Iran would “reverse” its decision “as soon as E3 abide by their obligations”—referring to the European parties to the deal: Britain, France and Germany.

Zarif’s U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using its nuclear program “to extort the international community and threaten regional security.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had exceeded the limit that the deal imposed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU). A diplomat in Vienna, where the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog is based, told AFP that Iran had exceeded the 300 kilogram limit by two kilograms.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Iran’s move was a cause for “regret” but also “a natural consequence of recent events” and a result of the “unprecedented pressure” from the U.S. “One mustn’t dramatize the situation,” Ryabkov, whose country is a close ally of Tehran, said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter that London was “deeply worried” and urged Iran to “come back to compliance” with the nuclear deal. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said it was “essential” that Iran stick to the deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged European countries to impose sanctions on his country’s arch-foe Iran.

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday about Iran’s breach of the nuclear deal limit, the White House said. The U.S. president expressed hope in an interview broadcast on Monday—which was taped prior to Iran’s announcement on the uranium limit—that Tehran would come to the negotiating table. “Hopefully, at some point, they’ll come back and they’ll say, ‘We’re going to make a deal.’ Let’s see what happens,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight.

The European Union said on Friday after a crisis meeting aimed at salvaging the deal that a special payment mechanism set up to help Iran skirt the sanctions, known as INSTEX, was finally “operational” and that the first transactions were being processed. But “the Europeans’ efforts were not enough, therefore Iran will go ahead with its announced measures,” Zarif said.

INSTEX, which “is just the beginning” of their commitments, has not yet been fully implemented, he added.

The 2015 deal saw Iran commit to never acquiring an atomic bomb, accept drastic limits on its nuclear program and submit to IAEA inspections in exchange for a partial lifting of crippling international sanctions. Iran has also threatened to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent from July 7. That remains far short of the 90 percent purity required to build a weapon.

The latest tensions coincide with a buildup of U.S. forces in the Gulf and a series of incidents including Iran’s shooting down of a U.S. drone it claimed had entered its airspace.

Babylon the Great Will Soon Attack Iran

With uranium violation, the ‘who attacks Iran first’ talk gets louder – analysis

It was no surprise that Iran passed 300-kilogram enriched uranium threshold limit on Monday.

If anything, it was a surprise that Tehran did not pass that limit last week when it had said earlier in June that it would violate the limit by June 27.

And although violating the 300-kilogram limit, part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), does not actually bring the Islamic republic all that much closer to a nuclear bomb, it is already changing the conversation in the Israeli defense establishment.

There is still a preference in most circles for a negotiated outcome, but now calls for discussion of a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel will get louder.

The Jerusalem Post
 has followed differing points of view within the Israeli defense establishment, and on this issue, there are fundamentally two major camps.

One camp is not only committed to diplomacy, but has always believed that attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities is a massive risk that could lead to regional war, including tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets raining down on Israel’s home front.

Those in this camp, still sign off on Israel carrying out a pre-emptive strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities if it has already enriched enough uranium for a bomb and is close to being able to deploy one, but broadly speaking, they oppose an attack before that final point.

They also oppose too much public discussion of an Israeli attack before that final point, as they believe too much sword waving harms chances at diplomacy and makes the Trump administration feel it does not have an obligation to carry out the attack.

This second camp prefers that the Trump administration carry out a pre-emptive strike if it becomes necessary, and cringes at the idea of Israel going at it alone unless there is really no other choice.

The other camp is more triumphalist.

They take the threat from Hezbollah and regional war with Iran seriously, but overall, they believe Israel’s military and deterrence are so strong that Jerusalem could order a surgical strike on the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities and likely avoid a major conflict from Tehran’s proxies.

In this narrative, the proxies know that they would pay too massive a price and will avoid getting involved, especially if it is clear that Israel attacked surgically and is not threatening Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime’s survival.

This camp believes that Jerusalem should talk loudly and repeatedly about its readiness to carry out a pre-emptive strike going solo and without global support.

In their telling, making the threat clearer will make diplomacy more likely to work as Iran will not view the threat of force as a bluff.

Further, this camp believes that the Trump administration has lost respect in the eyes of the Iranians and that, therefore, only a clear threat from Israel might pressure Khamenei to be ready to compromise in the nuclear standoff.

Finally, this camp appears ready to order a pre-emptive strike earlier, possibly before Iran has enough enriched uranium for a bomb, even if it cannot yet deliver the explosive material.

All of this is likely jumping the gun, as it comes in the context in which there have been more than a dozen significant developments in the US-Iran nuclear standoff in recent weeks, but with none of them having moved either party closer to a deal or to a nuclear breakout.

Part of the reason is that the 300-kilogram limit is more symbolic than meaningful.

In contrast, Khamenei could have announced that he was ordering the enrichment of uranium to the 20% level, which would have shortened its breakout time to a nuclear bomb.

Iran could have reduced IAEA access to its nuclear facilities or the Islamic republic could have exited the 2015 deal or the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

By sufficing with the 300-kilogram symbolic violation of the deal, Iran is still signalling it does not want an escalation into a military conflict.

The next Iran deadline is July 7.

It is unclear what new escalated violation Iran will commit on July 7, but the latest reports from Tehran are that it will enrich uranium to 3.7% up from the nuclear deal’s 3.67% or start violating the 300-kilogram limit much more substantially.

These likely would still be merely symbolic violations.

Without jumping to at least the 20% enrichment level as Khamenei ordered before the 2015 deal, the breakout time to a nuclear bomb will only get reduced on a very incremental basis.

So, in all likelihood, Monday’s „big“ news will probably not change the ongoing game of chicken radically.

However, it will likely change the tone and focus of the conversation in Israel, and those calling for putting the Israeli pre-emptive strike option front and center probably have gained at least a temporary upper hand.

Prophetically God will destroy Jerusalem not Iran

Iranian lawmaker: ‚If US attacks, Israel will be destroyed in half an hour‘

Senior Iranian parliamentarian threatens that Israel will be destroyed if the United States attacks Iran.

A senior Iranian parliamentarian threatened on Monday that Israel will be destroyed in half an hour if the United States attacks Iran, the semi-official Iranian Mehr news agency reported.

Mojtaba Zonnour, Chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, made the remarks in an interview with the Al-Alam TV network.

“If the US attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan,” he declared.

Zonnour said that US President Donald Trump’s claim that he stopped a retaliatory military strike on Iran 10 minutes before it was set to start was a “political bluff”.

“If they (the Americans) had predicted their attack would be successful, they would not have cancelled it and it would definitely have happened,” said the Iranian lawmaker, who added that the US president’s advisors could see the failure of the attack.

Zonnour further claimed that Iran’s power has created deterrence, adding that all 36 US military bases in the region are under Iran’s surveillance.

He described Trump as a businessman who only cares about money and who is not man of war.

The lawmaker’s comments come amid ongoing tensions between the US and Iran which were intensified earlier this month when Iran shot down a US drone, claiming it violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

US officials have denied that the drone had entered Iranian airspace and stated that the drone was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.

The Pentagon released an image showing the flight path for the drone that was shot down, in an effort to prove that the it had been shot down in international airspace.

Iranian officials regularly threaten to wipe Israel off the map and attack its cities and towns.

Many of the threats against Israel come from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Last June, Khamenei launched a Twitter tirade against Israel, saying that “the Zionist regime will perish in the not-so-far future.”

Earlier that month, he called Israel “a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated”. Khamenei also attacked Netanyahu and branded him a “child killer”.

Even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has been described by some Western officials as a “moderate”, has threatened Israel.

This past November, Rouhani called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and urged Muslim nations worldwide to unite and destroy Israel while also adding that Israel is a „fake regime“.

Rouhani has in the past called Israel “illegitimate”. Shortly after being elected in 2013, he called Israel an „old wound“ that „should be removed“. Iranian media later claimed that Rouhani’s remarks were distorted.