The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Revelation 6:12)

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The Nuclear Race in the Middle East (Daniel 7-8)

Middle East: Towards a Nuclear Arms Race

The Middle East is barreling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.

The race is being aided and abetted by a schizophrenic U.S. policy that, on the one hand, focuses on Iran (and the need to stop the country in its tracks) and, on the other hand, primarily views Saudi Arabia as a lucrative market for the U.S. defense and nuclear industry.

The race is further enabled by the inability or unwillingness of other major powers – Europe, Russia and China – to counter crippling U.S. sanctions against Iran in ways that would ensure that Tehran maintains an interest in adhering to the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Iranian nuclear program despite last year’s U.S. withdrawal from the deal.

Aiding the Saudi agenda

With the Middle East teetering on the brink of a military confrontation, Iran has vowed to start breaching the agreement if the international community, and particularly Europe, fails to shield it against U.S. sanctions.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general Olli Heinonen, a hard-liner when it comes to Iran, asserted recently during a visit to Israel that Iran would need six to eight months to enrich uranium in the quantity and quality required to produce a nuclear bomb.

U.S. and Chinese willingness to lower safeguards in their nuclear dealings with Saudi Arabia further fuel Iranian doubts about the value of the nuclear agreement and potentially open the door to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Why Trump focuses on Iran

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News, Donald Trump recently elaborated on the prism through which he approaches the Middle East.

The president deflected calls for an FBI investigation into last October’s murder by Saudi government agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

“Iran’s killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East ― this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries,” Mr. Trump said, suggesting that crimes by one country provide license to others.

Asked whether Saudi arms purchases was reason to let Saudi Arabia off the hook, Mr. Trump responded: “No, no. But I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Europe’s stance creates an opening for Russia

Europe has so far unsuccessfully sought to put in place an effective mechanism that would allow European and potentially non-European companies that do business with Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions unscathed.

As the United States prepared to announce new sanctions, Russia said it would help Iran with oil exports and its banking sector if the European mechanism failed to get off the ground but offered no details.

While countering the sanctions is Iran’s immediate priority, Saudi moves, with the help of the Trump administration as well as China, are likely to enhance Iranian questioning of the nuclear accord’s value.

The country is keen to put in place the building blocks for a nuclear industry that could develop a military component and a ballistic missiles capability.

Trump’s “rationale”

Trump’s argument that Russia and China would fill America’s shoes if the United States refused to sell arms and technology to Saudi Arabia is not wholly without merit, even if it fails to justify a lack of safeguards in the provision of nuclear technology to the kingdom.

For example, when the United States refused to share its most advanced drone technology, China opened in 2017 its first overseas defense production facility in Saudi Arabia.

State-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is manufacturing its CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment in Saudi Arabia. The CH-4 is comparable to the armed U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Satellite images discovered by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and confirmed by U.S. intelligence show that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China.

Saudis bypass the Americans

The missile program runs counter to U.S. policy that for decades sought to ensure that Saudi Arabia had air supremacy in the region, so that it wouldn’t seek to go around the United States to upgrade its missile capabilities.

The program that started in the late 1980s with Saudi Arabia’s first clandestine missile purchases from China suggests that the kingdom, uncertain about the reliability of the United Sates, is increasingly hedging its bets.

Saudi development of a ballistic missile capability significantly dims any prospect of Iran agreeing to limit its missile program – a key demand put forward by the Trump administration.

Nuclear power plants in play too

in 2017 Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with China that included a feasibility study for the construction of high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear power plants in the kingdom as well as cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs built in Saudi Arabia.

The HTGR agreement built on an accord signed in 2012 that involved maintenance and development of nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as the provision of Chinese nuclear fuel.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) warned at the time that the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons.”

The Trump administration, eager to corner a deal for the acquisition of designs for nuclear power plants, a contract valued at up to $80 billion depending on how many Saudi Arabia ultimately decides to build, has approved several nuclear technology transfers to the kingdom.

It has also approved licences for six U.S. firms to sell atomic power technology to Saudi Arabia.

Saudis vs. the IAEA

Saudi Arabia is nearing completion of its first atomic reactor in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology near Riyadh.

A signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Saudi Arabia has ignored calls by the IAEA, to implement proportionate safeguards and an inspection regime that would ensure that it does not move towards development of a nuclear military capability.

“Saudi Arabia is currently subject to less intrusive monitoring by international inspectors because Riyadh concluded what is known as a small quantities protocol with the agency.

The small quantities protocol was designed to simplify safeguards for states with minimal or no nuclear material, but it is no longer adequate for Saudi Arabia’s expanding nuclear program,” Kelsey Davenport, director of Non-proliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Middle East Eye.

Ms. Davenport warned that “given these factors, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned that Saudi Arabia is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow Riyadh to quickly pursue nuclear weapons if the political decision were made to do so.”

Australia’s nuclear weapons (Daniel 7)

Australia, nuclear weapons and America’s umbrella business | The Strategist

Rod Lyon

Australia, nuclear weapons and America’s umbrella business

Hugh White’s new book, How to defend Australia, has stirred up a hornet’s nest on the topic of potential nuclear proliferation. In one sense, that’s a surprise, since anyone who’s read the relevant chapter knows that it’s book-ended by carefully crafted paragraphs which state explicitly that White ‘neither predicts nor advocates’ Australia’s development of an indigenous nuclear arsenal.

But in between those paragraphs White explores the history of Australian interest in a national nuclear weapons program, underlines the dwindling credibility of US nuclear assurances to allies, canvasses a possible nuclear doctrine for Australia, and recommends a force structure—more submarines—suitable to what he sees as our new straitened strategic circumstances. If he’s not advocating a nuclear arsenal, why is he telling us so much about what it ought to look like?

Let’s start with the possibility of Australian nuclear proliferation up front. As I wrote recently for a chapter in After American primacy, there are five barriers to Australian proliferation: ideational, political, diplomatic, technological and strategic. Briefly, crossing the nuclear Rubicon would require:

• Australians to think differently about nuclear weapons—as direct contributors to our defence rather than as abstract contributors to global stability

• a bipartisan political consensus to support proliferation, during both development and deployment of a nuclear arsenal

• a shift in Australia’s diplomatic footprint, to build a case for our leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and abrogating the Treaty of Rarotonga, while still being able to retail a coherent story of arms control and nuclear order

• serious investment in the technologies and skill-sets required to construct and deploy, safely and securely, both nuclear warheads and appropriate delivery vehicles

• and a strategy which gives meaning to our arsenal and an explanation of our thinking to our neighbours and our major ally.

White’s chapter draws together a set of thoughts that relate primarily to the fourth and fifth barriers. His focus is on defending an Australia that’s ‘all on its own’ against a nuclear-armed—and conventionally well-equipped—great power. If he didn’t at least consider the option of an ‘Aussie bomb’, his work would be incomplete.

Still, White sees the primary threat as one of nuclear coercion—nuclear blackmail, he calls it—rather than actual nuclear attack. In response, he argues in favour of a ‘minimum deterrence’ nuclear posture for Australia, citing the British and French programs approvingly. Minimum deterrence, says White:

[D]oes not envisage that nuclear weapons would ever be used [in actually fighting wars], or indeed used at all: their sole purpose is to deter nuclear attack by others. It is one of the bewildering paradoxes of nuclear strategy that if an attack occurs then the strategy has already failed, and there is not much point in using the weapons to retaliate. But their effectiveness as a deterrent depends on their being evidently capable of use, and on those responsible for ordering their use being evidently willing and ready to do so.

But ‘minimum deterrence’ is a slippery term—Chinese, Indian and Pakistani declaratory policies have all, at one time or another, applied it to their own programs. The term, by the way, typically means something different from what readers might think; it means the minimal nuclear capability necessary to underpin effective deterrence, not—as a literalist might imagine—the nuclear capability necessary to underpin a minimal level of deterrence. In the French case, for example, Cold War nuclear doctrine called for an arsenal that could ‘rip the arm off’ a superpower, leaving it an amputee among its more able-bodied peers. For contemporary British doctrine, see here.

Australia, were it to develop nuclear weapons, would need a nuclear arsenal and nuclear posture aligned with its strategy. So, what is it we might want nuclear weapons to do? If we want them to constitute an effective deterrent against an authoritarian great power, neither arsenal nor posture could be threadbare. And we surely couldn’t espouse a doctrinal position that minimum deterrence would fail with an adversary’s first use and that there would be no point in retaliation.

What, after all, might drive a decision by Australia to proliferate? White argues that it would be Australia finding itself—like Kevin McCallister in the movie—‘home alone’. If so, what’s happened to our current strategy of working with allies and partners to promote and defend the regional order we most want? A nuclear-armed Fortress Australia isn’t especially appealing. I think there’s a different scenario in which Australia might choose to build a relatively modest, but capable, nuclear arsenal, and that’s where we would be trying to underline both a condition of prickly regional multipolarity and our capacity to play a role as a regional security contributor.

Australia’s security is fundamentally shaped by the global and regional orders. At the moment, US extended nuclear deterrence is a key ingredient of those orders. The US nuclear umbrella protects almost 40 allies worldwide. What happens if America goes out of the umbrella business? Well, we know what our region would look like: the remaining nuclear powers would be Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

As I said in an earlier post, the maldistribution of residual nuclear weapons would reinforce the power shifts already under way within the region. Moreover, a fast-rising power, like China, could choose to ‘sprint to parity’ with the US and Russia under such conditions—it’s certainly not constrained by formal arms control agreements.

That would be a world where Japan, South Korea and Australia had shared incentives to proliferate, and perhaps Indonesia and Vietnam too; where we probably wouldn’t be the first horse out of the gate; and where we might reasonably hope to ‘share’ the challenges of proliferation with others.

Let me say that such a future world is less attractive than the one we live in now. Asia typically hasn’t put a high priority on nuclear weapons, which tend to sit in the strategic background rather than the foreground. A sudden cascade of nuclear proliferation would make for a more fraught and difficult region—which is one good reason we ought to be working harder to keep the US engaged in Asia and its umbrella business healthy.

Hamas Prepares for Massive War Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Hamas stages large-scale surprise drill with other Gaza groups

Hamas held an unprecedented military exercise in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in which all members of the coastal enclave’s military organizations participated.

As part of the exercise, all the land crossings were closed and fishermen were banned from entering the sea.

The exercise envisaged a large-scale security incident in the Gaza Strip, and according to the joint operations unit for all Gaza organizations, the exercise was conducted successfully.

The head of the Gaza fishermen’s union confirmed to Ynet that the Interior Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip had banned fishermen from entering the sea. He said that the ban was in place until further notice.

The drill took place a day after Israel announced the discovery of another tunnel dug into its territory from the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the tunnel, which originates in the southern Strip, was uncovered on the Israeli side of the border during construction of an underground barrier to prevent such excavations from taking place.

The tunnel was found in an area in which many similar excavations have been discovered over the last 20 years.

At this stage, it appears that this is an old tunnel, not one that was recently excavated or was intended to be used by Hamas in the near future.

“The tunnel does not pose a threat and is being handled by the IDF,” said Eshkol Regional Council, a community close to the Gaza border.

“The tunnel was located thanks to groundbreaking technological defenses that are being used along the Gaza border to protect our communities,” the council said.

“We thank the IDF soldiers and officers who act resolutely and with courage to defend our communities.”

Meanwhile, the military wing of Hamas issued a short statement Tuesday as Israel marked the fifth anniversary of the 2014 Gaza war, known as Operation Protective Edge, and released the findings of an investigation into a botched raid in the Gazan city of Khan Yunis in November 2018, which led to the death of IDF Lt. Col. M.

“Our people and the resistance experienced heroic fighting during the Protective Edge campaign, which shocked both our enemy and our friends,” said Hamas.

“Since the end of the (2014) campaign, we have not stopped our preparations or our battle of wills with Israel. This was seen in the strength of the resistance in Khan Yunis, whose ramifications still shake the foundations of Israel’s defense establishment and army,” the group said.

“The capabilities that the resistance still retains (and have not yet been revealed) are very powerful.”

Japan obviously doesn’t believe Iran attacked their oil tankers

Abe eyes another meeting with Iran’s president in September

Jul 10, 2019

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet at the U.N. headquarters in New York in September 2017. | KYODO

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering holding talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he visits New York in September to attend a U.N. General Assembly session, government sources said Wednesday.

After meeting with Rouhani in Tehran on June 12, Abe told a joint news conference that he would hold another round of talks with the Iranian president at some point in the future.

Since returning to power in 2012, Abe has held discussions with Rouhani on the sidelines of General Assembly sessions every year.

The sources said the specific meeting schedule would be fixed after the July 21 House of Councilors election.

During his three-day visit to Iran through June 14, Abe also met with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but failed to broker a dialogue between Tehran and Washington. After the talks with Abe, Khamenei said on Twitter, “I don’t consider (U.S. President Donald) Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with; I have no response for him & will not answer him.”

Abe still hopes to ease intensifying tensions between Iran and the United States by playing a mediator role. The Middle Eastern nation has now surpassed the uranium stockpile and enrichment limits set by the 2015 nuclear deal.

But with Tehran now threatening to take further steps to breach the deal, from which the United States withdrew last year, and Trump stepping up sanctions on Iran, the resumption of talks among parties involved in the nuclear deal, including the United States, can hardly be expected despite efforts by France and other parties, people familiar with the situation said.

At a news conference in Tokyo Wednesday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said Japan is “deeply concerned” about the heightened tensions.

“We will continue diplomatic efforts, while cooperating with the United States and other countries involved,” he added.

Bolton Trying to Justify World War 3

Airmen from the 821st Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, on November 19, 2016. Propaganda floated by former Vice President Dick Cheney over a decade ago to justify his push for war against Iran has been revived by the Trump administration.

Senior Airman Joran Castelan / U.S. Air Force

Lies About Iran Killing US Troops in Iraq Are a Ploy to Justify War

Gareth Porter Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter. More by this author…

Published July 9, 2019

One of the many myths that have been used to justify the push for war with Iran led by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is that Tehran is responsible for the killing of more than 600 U.S. troops during the Iraq War.

Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, whose job is to round up international support for the Trump administration’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran, presented the charge at a State Department press briefing on April 2. “I can announce today, based on declassified U.S. military reports,” Hook said, “that Iran is responsible for the deaths of 608 American service members. This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.”

Navy Commander Sean Robertson followed up with an email to media outlets pushing that same line. When this writer asked Robertson for further clarification of the origins of that figure, however, he acknowledged that the Pentagon doesn’t have any study, documentation, or data to provide journalists that would support such a figure.

In fact, the myth that Tehran is responsible for killing over 600 U.S. troops in the Iraq War is merely a new variant of a propaganda line that former Vice President Dick Cheney used to attempt to justify a war against Iran more than a decade ago. Reviewing the history of that earlier effort is necessary to understand why the new myth is a palpable lie.

Myths About Iran Providing Shiite Militias With Bombs

The history of the myth begins with Vice President Dick Cheney’s determination to attack Iran sometime before the end of the George W. Bush administration. Cheney had contemplated a campaign of U.S. airstrikes on Iran, to be justified by charging that Iran was trying to produce a nuclear weapon. But that rationale for a U.S. military strike on Iran was unanimously rejected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a December 13, 2006, meeting with Cheney and President George W. Bush, according to a report by political columnist Joe Klein in TIME magazine.

After that rebuff, Cheney began to focus on another rationale for war on Iran: the alleged Iranian role in killing U.S. troops in Iraq. On January 10, 2007, President George W. Bush gave a speech that included language accusing Iran of “providing material support for attacks on American troops.” Although Bush did not threaten in that speech to retaliate against Iran, his words established a legal and political basis for a possible future attack, according to Hillary Mann Leverett, former National Security Council staff director for the Persian Gulf, in an interview with me in 2008.

After Gen. David Petraeus took over as commander of coalition forces in Iraq in January 2007, the command went all out to support Cheney’s strategy. Its main argument was that Iran was providing Shiite militias with the powerful roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) that were causing increasing number of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

But the evidence proved otherwise. Hezbollah — not Iran — had been well known as the world’s most knowledgeable designer and user of EFPs. Michael Knights, who had been following the role of EFPs in Iraq for nearly three years for a private security company in London, told me in an exclusive interview in January 2007 that it was Hezbollah that had transferred EFPs and components for manufacture to Palestinian militants after the second intifada began in 2000. He also observed in a detailed account in Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2006 that the first EFPs to appear in Iraq in 2004 were believed to have come from Hezbollah.

Newsday had reported on August 12, 2005, moreover, that Shiite militiamen had begun copying Hezbollah techniques for building as well as using EFPs, based on Lebanese and Iraqi official sources.

The U.S. military intelligence chief in Iraq had claimed in September 2006 that the C-4 explosive used in EFPs in Iraq bore the same batch number as the C-4 found on a Hezbollah ship said by Israeli officials to be bound for Palestinian fighters in 2003. But Knights observed this statement showed that Iran wasn’t shipping the materials for EFPs to Shiites in Iraq. If Iran had been shipping the C-4 to Iraq the previous year, he pointed out, the batch number would have been different from the one given to Hezbollah at least four years earlier.

The command’s effort to push its line about Iran and EFPs encountered one embarrassing revelation after another. In February 2007 a U.S. command briefing asserted that the EFPs had “characteristics unique to being manufactured in Iran.” However, after NBC correspondent Jane Arraf confronted the deputy commander of coalition troops, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, with the fact that a senior military official had acknowledged to her that U.S. troops had been discovering many sites manufacturing EFPs in Iraq, Odierno was forced to admit that it was true.

Then in late February 2007, U.S. troops found another cache of parts and explosives for EFPs near Baghdad, which included shipments of PVC tubes for the canisters that contradicted its claims. They had come not from factories in Iran, but from factories in the UAE and other Arab countries, including Iraq itself. That evidence clearly suggested that the Shiites were procuring EFP parts on the commercial market rather than getting them from Iran.

Although the military briefing by the command in February 2007 pointed to cross-border weapons smuggling, it actually confirmed in one of its slides that it was being handled by “Iraqi extremist group members” rather than by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). And as Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the U.S. commander for southern Iraq, admitted in a July 6 press briefing, his troops had not “captured anybody that we can directly tie back to Iran.”

Blaming Iran for Casualties From U.S. Attacks

The centerpiece of the Petraeus campaign was an effort to argue that Iran was responsible for U.S. casualties, primarily in Baghdad, because of its sponsorship of Shiite militias. In August 2007, Lt. Gen. Odierno asserted that 73 percent of all attacks that had killed or wounded U.S. forces in Baghdad during July were by Shiite militias linked to Iran. That charge generated the New York Times headline, “U.S. Says Iran-Supplied Bomb Kills More Troops.”

In fact, however, the increase in U.S. deaths was the direct result of Petraeus’s decision to target Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the hope of weakening it. Beginning in late April 2007, the U.S. launched dozens of military operations aimed solely at capturing or killing Mahdi Army officers, and the Mahdi Army was strongly resisting those raids and imposing more casualties on U.S. troops.

In his September 2007 congressional testimony, Petraeus introduced a new propaganda line that Iran had turned Sadr’s militia into a “Hezbollah-like force” in order to “fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.” But there was no evidence that those Shiite forces resisting the U.S. military’s offensive had broken away from Sadr and were now responsive to Iran.

The Iraqi Shiite figure said to have been the leader of supposed Iranian-backed breakaway “Special Groups,” Qais al-Khazali, was interrogated by the U.S. military for weeks after his arrest in March 2007. Reports of dozens of those interrogations have recently been declassified, and a review of the reports reveals that Khazali portrayed the “Special Groups” as an integral part of the Sadrist movement. He recalled that a large meeting of the “Sadrist Trend” — the political and military forces aligned with Sadr — made the decision to organize “Special Groups” as early as 2004. And he pointed out that Iranian financial support did not go directly to those groups, but went through the same Sadr channel that supported the rest of the Mahdi Army.

The bitter irony of the Petraeus propaganda campaign against the Mahdi Army is that Muqtada al-Sadr had stubbornly maintained his Iraqi nationalist stance completely independent from Iranian policy in Iraq since 2003. Meanwhile, rival Iraqi Shiite organizations, the Badr Organization and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), having fled to Iran years earlier, had followed strict orders from their Iranian patrons to collaborate closely with the U.S. military and civilian authorities to establish and consolidate a Shiite-dominated regime in Iraq. The Shiite groups loyal to Iran and Sadr’s armed followers were always in bitter conflict, and in 2008 they fought in the streets of Basra and Baghdad.

Propaganda Supporting Cheney’s Strike Plan

In a July 2, 2007, press briefing Petraeus’s spokesman, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner implied that Iran’s Qods Force had helped a Shiite militia carry out a January 2007 attack in Karbala, Iraq, that killed five Americans. Bergner offered no evidence of any such Iranian role in the attack, however, only the suggestion that the Qods Force leadership was informed about the planning of the operation by a Hezbollah official in Iraq.

The New York Times, Associated Press, and other outlets released stories claiming that Bergner had said Iranian agents helped plan the Karbala attack. Within hours, Sen. Joe Lieberman issued a press release saying that the Iranian government had “declared war on us.” Bergner’s comments and Lieberman’s statement set the stage for the unanimous passage the following week of a Senate resolution that the murder of American military personnel by Iran was “an intolerable act of hostility against the United States.”

Around the time Lieberman was introducing that resolution (in partnership with four Republican senators), Cheney proposed in a meeting with other senior officials that if the United States obtained hard evidence of Iranian support for Shiite militias killing U.S. forces in Iraq, such as fighters or weapons crossing into Iraq from an IRGC base in Iran linked to that assistance.

Defense Department officials quashed the proposal, however, by demanding that Cheney’s staff explain how this military escalation would unfold, and how it would end, according to J. Scott Carpenter former deputy assistant secretary of state, in a 2008 interview with this writer. Cheney’s staff couldn’t provide satisfactory answers.

When officials of the Trump administration claim that Iran is responsible for U.S. deaths in Iraq, they are following Dick Cheney’s playbook. As the Bolton-Pompeo team tries to steer the U.S. toward attacking Iran, it is important to draw that parallel to Cheney’s strategy, and understand the history behind this push for war.

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Babylon the Great Prepares for Nuclear War (Daniel 7)

The Pentagon Wants VR To Train for Nuclear War

The tech would allow troops to train to counter nuclear and radiological weapons, including dirty bombs.

By Kyle MizokamiJul 9, 2019

The U.S. Department of Defense is considering using virtual reality technology to train military personnel who might someday come up against dirty bombs and other radioactive weapons. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which typically concerns itself with responding to weapons of mass destruction, wants to use VR as a training tool to teach soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen how to respond to “radiological threats,” from dirty bombs to nuclear weapons.

The DTRA posted a solicitation to industry on the FedBizOpps web site. The solicitation calls for a virtual reality or augmented reality system designed to simulate “operating in a battlefield nuclear warfare (BNW) environment, or performing radiological threat objects find and interdict operations.”

“Radiological/nuclear considerations may include,” the solicitation also notes, “everything from point radiation sources, area contamination, and nuclear weapon detonation.”

Nuclear weapons and their hazards are well known, radiological weapons somewhat less so. Radiological weapons are not nuclear weapons but weapons designed to disperse highly dangerous and even lethal radioactivity over a wide area. A combination of plutonium and high explosives in a backpack or truck bomb, for example, would scatter radioactive debris over a wide area.

Unprotected persons caught in the blast—or venturing into the blast zone afterward—could be exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity, leading to radiation sickness or cancer. A contaminated zone could remain dangerous for days, weeks, months or even years, depending on the radioactive isotope used.

A soldier from the 444th Chemical Company, Illinois National Guard, checks another for contamination during a nuclear terrorist attack training exercise Vibrant Response 2019.


Radiological weapons have yet to have been used, existing mostly in theory as “dirty bombs” used by terrorists against civilian targets. One possible exception is the assassination of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko was allegedly slipped a dose of the radioactive isotope polonium through a cup of tea and developed radiation poisoning soon afterward.

An AR/VR training tool in this context could be a program that simulates the detonation of a radiological or nuclear weapon and overlays likely areas of contamination and levels of radioactivity over the user’s field of view. This would allow the user to “look” at a location and estimate the effects of such a weapon and formulate a response. Adding meteorological data such a barometric pressure and wind speed pulled from the internet would help estimate the spread of fallout.

On the other side of the spectrum such tech could allow military personnel to search for dirty bombs by looking for telltale signs of radioactivity within a VR or AR environment—all without actually using radioactive materials for training.