Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/images/nj-quake-030201.gif

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”

That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.

His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

Babylon the Great Sends More Troops Towards Iran

As tensions with Iran mount, reports say US readying 500 troops to deploy to Saudi Arabia

Diana Stancy Correll

The U.S. is poised to send hundreds of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, according to new media reports.

CNN reports two U.S. defense officials said 500 troops will deploy to Prince Sultan Air Base, which the U.S. has eyed as a spot for increased presence because intelligence indicates the desert region would be difficult for Iranian missiles to strike.

The new troops would be in addition to a small number of troops and support personnel already in Saudi Arabia readying a Patriot missile defense battery and a runway.

The deployment is part of the Pentagon’s plan to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East due to escalating tensions with Iran. The proposal was unveiled on June 17, but it was unclear exactly where the troops would be sent.

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said at the time. “The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests.”

Congress has yet to receive formal notification of the troop movement, but were unofficially tipped off that the deployment would happen, according to CNN.

Although the Trump administration has sought to cozy up to Saudi Arabia, the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia has been strained since the death of Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, as well as concerns about the ongoing Saudi-led fight in Yemen against Iran-supported Houthi rebels that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.

The Pentagon did not disclose details of the plan and said that there was no official announcement yet.

“U.S. Central Command continually works to manage our force posture in the region and will continue to do this in cooperation with our partners and allies in the region,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich said in a statement. “There is no official announcement at this time.”

U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Military Times.

The U.S. has already boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf in recent months. For example, the Trump administration sent the USS Abraham Lincoln, B-52 bombers, and a Patriot antimissile battery to the region in May.

Tensions have worsened since then, especially after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20. In response, the Trump administration was prepared to launch a military strike, but President Donald Trump said he backed off the plan after he learned the number of estimated casualties.

Preparing for War Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Joseph Barrak/Getty

As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With Israel

Hezbollah field commanders say they’re redeploying toward Israel’s border, ready to fight in a devastating conflagration.

BEIRUT—The tranquil winding roads of Lebanon’s mountainous interior are far from the tense waters of the Persian Gulf where President Donald Trump says America came within 10 minutes of war with Iran a few weeks ago. And where, he said on Thursday, the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone. But if fighting ever does begin, these hills and valleys near the border with Israel will quickly be on the front lines. And according to Hezbollah commanders, that moment could be coming soon.

When Trump talked of war, he meant a shooting war in the conventional sense. But for Iran and its allies, it’s Trump’s economic war with its suffocating sanctions that is bringing the region to the brink of armed conflict. The targets of Trump’s weaponized dollar increasingly see resorting to military engagements as the only response left.

Here in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s commanders are close allies and clients of Iran—and they are targeted by U.S. sanctions as well. They warn that if the pressure continues these rugged hills where the Party of God fought bloody guerrilla campaigns to end 15 years of Israeli occupation in 2000 and repel an Israeli invasion in 2006 could erupt once again.

And this time, they say, the combat will be far more devastating.

Hezbollah’s forces, battle-hardened in the Syrian civil war, have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria opposite the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah fighters who spoke to The Daily Beast say their organization is hurting from sanctions and ready to initiate hostilities—if and when Tehran deems that necessary.

“The sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” says “Commander Samir,” a Hezbollah officer in charge of 800 fighters on Lebanon’s border with Israel. He declines to use his real name because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “We will fire the first shot this time,” he says.

“The pressure may actually be consolidating and motivating Iran’s proxies.”

Hezbollah’s military wing has changed fundamentally since its 2012 entrance into the war in Syria to prop up the Assad regime, transforming into a regional fighting force the Shia organization inspired by the Iranian revolution that the U.S. lists as a terrorist group.

When Trump offers the reasons he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year, precipitating the current crisis, he cites Iran’s support for militias that extend its power and influence across the region as something the U.S. intends to end—with Hezbollah the main target.

But the pressure may actually be consolidating and motivating Iran’s proxies.

Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria while training Iranian allied militias in Iraq and Yemen. The commander says his organization and Iran have moved past their split with Palestinian allies over Syria, where they were on opposite sides of the Syrian revolution as it turned into a bloody regional proxy war, and Iran is once again providing training and support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

From a living room overlooking the valleys where he became a veteran, ambushing the Israeli army and melting away into the surrounding hills, Samir says the next war will be nothing like those that came before.

The Red Line For Iran

This U.S. action should not be seen as retaliation for Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone in June, but rather as an act of self-defense.

It is justified for two reasons.

First, because Iran uses armed drones as a keystone element of its four-pronged war-fighting strategy for the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (the other three elements being anti-ship missiles, mines, and fast attack boats). Second, because Iran conducted this operation to test U.S. resolve in face of overt threats to American personnel.

While it’s not yet clear which type of drone was involved here, it was likely a Shahed 129 type drone. Armable with bombs, and possibly unguided rockets, Iran has previously used this platform to threaten American forces in the region. Regardless, while not nearly as advanced as U.S. military and intelligence drones, Iranian drones can threaten American personnel.

Again, on the available information, this was a justified action. Iran was repeatedly warned to withdraw the drone. The drone closed within 1 kilometer of the Boxer amphibious ready group before being shot down. And remember, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps builds and deploys its drones as a means of lethal threat.

Still, as I warned last month, this kind of Iranian test was always highly likely. The Iranian economy is in free fall and European Union appeasement has failed to restrain the hardliners’ anger. Iran would have intended this drone action to threaten American lives in a credible and serious manner. The Boxer amphibious ready group is embarked with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and over 2,000 Marines. So the perceived threat to life was significant, even if unarmed with bombs or missiles, the U.S. commander would have feared the drone might have been armed with explosives and intended to crash into the ship.

Shooting down the drone was the right action to take. Iran knows the United States will defend its personnel with all necessary force. Had the drone been allowed to approach closer, Iran would have been encouraged to escalate even further.

Babylon the Great Downs Iran’s Drone

US Navy Shoots Down Iranian Drone Near Strait of Hormuz, Trump Says

President Donald Trump announced the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian drone near the Strait of Hormuz, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

“The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone, which had closed into a near distance, approximately 1,000 yards,” Trump said July 18 about the incident in the strait that lies between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

The president was referring to the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship that is often deployed in and around the Persian Gulf.

“The drone was immediately destroyed,” Trump continued. He gave no other details.

“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report.

The United States, he explained, has “the right to defend our personnel, our facilities, and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”

The USS Boxer in a file photo. (US Navy)

Later, Trump issued a tweet about the drone takedown, reiterating that the Boxer “took defensive action” against the drone. He didn’t offer further details, including what type of drone it was.

Earlier on July 18, the United States condemned Iran’s seizure of a foreign tanker after Tehran made the announcement. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces said it had impounded the tanker ship after accusing 12 crew members of smuggling oil, according to state-run media outlets.

While Iran didn’t mention the tanker, the UAE-based, Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah made trips from Dubai and Sharjah along the UAE’s coast before it went through the Strait of Hormuz and drifted into Iranian waters, The Associated Press reported.

Iran released a video of the seized tanker, which matches the Riah, Haaretz reported.

A stock photo of an oil tanker (Marcos Moreno/AP Photo)

“We live in a very dangerous environment. The United States has pushed itself and the rest of the world into probably the brink of an abyss,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, according to Haaretz.

It also comes days after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his regime would lash out, after an Iranian tanker was seized near Gibraltar with the aid of the UK, as the Guardian noted.

Iran and “its committed forces will not leave this evil without a response,” he said.

According to Reuters, Khamenei on July 16 denounced the UK for its role in the tanker seizure.

A Ghadr-F missile is displayed next to a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, on Sept. 26, 2016. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

“Evil Britain commits piracy and steals our ship … and gives it a legal appearance. Iran and those who believe in our system will not leave such evil deeds unanswered,” Khamenei said in remarks broadcast on television.

Iran Ups the Ante for War

Iran stokes Gulf tensions by seizing two British-linked oil tankers

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says actions of Iranian forces in strait of Hormuz are ‘unacceptable’

Fri 19 Jul 2019 17.17 EDT

Iran seized two oil tankers – one registered in the UK, the other in Liberia – in the strait of Hormuz on Friday, marking a dramatic escalation in the worsening standoff in the Gulf.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed to have taken the British-flagged Stena Impero into port, and Iranian officials claimed it had drifted out of shipping lane and turned its satellite locator off.

A second tanker, the Mesdarg, which is Liberian-flagged but owned and operated by Glasgow-based firm Norbulk, also made a sudden diversion from its course towards the Saudi port of Ras Tanura on Friday, and tracking data showed it moving northwards towards the Iranian coast before apparently turning off its tracking signal.

Less than two hours later, the Mesdar’s tracking signal was turned back on. Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency, reported that the Mesdar was briefly detained in the strait of Hormuz and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

Norbulk Shipping UK confirmed that the Mesdar had been boarded by armed guards at around 5.30pm on Friday: “Communication has been re-established with the vessel and the master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well.”

Jeremy Hunt, the UK foreign secretary, said he was “extremely concerned” at the seizure of the ships. He said the Cobra emergency response committee would be meeting “to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels”.

“Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship,” Hunt said. “Our ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners.

“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”

The UK Ministry of Defence stressed that it had ships in the area, but could not provide any further details of what had happened.

Donald Trump, the US president, said on Friday night that the US would talk to Britain about the seizures.

The owners of the Stena Impero issued a statement saying that at 3pm GMT (7pm local time), the ship had been “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters”. “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran,” Stena Bulk and the ship’s managers, Northern Marine, said.

The Revolutionary Guards said they had seized the Stena Impero, citing international maritime law for their actions. Iran Front Page quoted an unnamed military source as saying the tanker had been “crossing a route other than the shipping lane in the strait of Hormuz, had switched off its transponders and did not pay any attention to Iran’s warnings when it was seized by the [Revolutionary Guard] forces”.

Iran had been complaining bitterly about the detention by UK forces of an Iranian tanker two weeks ago off Gibraltar. The seizure of the tankers came hours after authorities in Gibraltar announced that they were extending their custody of the Iranian tanker, the Grace 1. Tehran denounced the detention of the Grace 1 as piracy carried out on orders from Washington. The Grace 1 was seized by Britain’s Royal Marines on 4 July, on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria, in violation of an EU embargo.

Iranian politicians have been calling for reprisals and the country’s forces, led by the Revolutionary Guards, are being increasingly aggressive in disrupting shipping lanes in the Gulf. Iranian officials have said that if Iran is not to be allowed to export its oil, it should not be expected to safeguard the free flow of oil from other Gulf states.

The Stena Impero, a 30,000-tonne British-flagged and Swedish-owned ship, was heading for Saudi Arabia when it abruptly left the international sea lanes through the strait of Hormuz, and tracking data showed it heading north towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, where the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has a substantial base.

“We are aware of reports that Iranian forces seized a British oil tanker,” the chief spokesman for the US national security council, Garrett Marquis, said in a statement. “This is the second time in just over a week the UK has been the target of escalatory violence by the Iranian regime.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard made an initial attempt to capture a British tanker six days after the Grace 1 was first seized. On 10 July, a British warship, the HMS Montrose, intervened to drive off three Iranian military vessels that were attempting to divert a UK tanker, the British Heritage, towards Iranian territory.

The incidents come amid a battle of nerves along the oil export routes of the Gulf, which has involved close encounters between, Iranian, UK and US military forces.

Earlier on Friday, Tehran denied Trump’s claim that US forces had downed a Iranian drone over the Gulf. Iran’s top military spokesman said all drones had returned safely to base, but Trump was adamant. “No doubt about it … we shot it down,” the US president said.

Trump said on Thursday that the USS Boxer took defensive action after the unmanned vehicle came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.

The prospect of negotiations that might defuse the standoff appeared more distant than ever on Friday as a senior US official dismissed a nuclear offer proposed the previous day by Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, during a visit to New York. The official suggested the offer was not serious and called for “an actual decision-maker” to enter talks to “end Iran’s malign nuclear ambitions”.

Trump has vacillated on what he wants Iran to do in return for a lifting of the oil and banking embargo that the US has imposed since walking out of an international nuclear deal with Tehran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) in May last year. The sharp response to Zarif’s offer suggests that administration hardliners, led by the national security adviser, John Bolton, are currently running Iran policy.

Zarif proposed that Iran’s parliament immediately ratify acceptance of a permanent regime of intrusive international inspections, known as the Additional Protocol, designed to ensure that Iran was not building nuclear weapons covertly. Iran is currently observing the protocol under the terms of the JCPOA, and was due to ratify it, cementing it into law, in October 2023.

Q&A

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Zarif offered to bring that arrangement forward by more than four years in return for immediate sanctions relief. The offer was never likely to be accepted – the US has an expansive list of demands concerning Iran’s activities – but it did signal a willingness to do a deal with Washington outside the framework of the JCPOA. The US reaction, however, was scathing.

“The president has repeatedly said he is willing to have a conversation with Iranian leaders. If Iran wants to make a serious gesture, it should start by ending uranium enrichment immediately and having an actual decision-maker attempt to negotiate a deal that includes a permanent end to Iran’s malign nuclear ambitions, including its development of nuclear-capable missiles,” a senior administration official said.

Iran has consistently refused to give up uranium enrichment, which can be for both civilian and military purposes. Efforts by previous US administrations to stop it led to an exponential expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity. The JCPOA accepted Iran’s right to enrich uranium, but imposed strict upper limits on its purity and other elements of the nuclear programme in return for sanction relief.

With the negotiating gap between Washington and Tehran as wide as ever, the contest between the two countries has shifted increasingly to the Gulf.

The Gibraltar supreme court’s extended the detention of the Grace 1 at a hearing on Friday after Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, held talks with Iranian officials at the Foreign Office in London on Thursday. Picardo also held talks with Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary.

The UK has been seeking legal assurances that the tanker, if released, will not travel to Syria to unload 2.1m barrels of oil if released, as it was suspected of attempting when detained.

Tehran says it is not party to an EU embargo and insists that the ship was not bound for Syria. Zarif, who was in New York on Thursday, has refused to disclose another destination for the ship, saying it was is not in Iran’s interests to reveal how it is seeking to avoid a US-imposed embargo on all Iranian oil exports. The UK Foreign Office remains certain that the destination was Syria.

Bob Sanguinetti, the chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, said: “We condemn unreservedly the capture of Stena Impero … Our priority is for the safety and welfare of the crew. We call on the UK government to do whatever is necessary to ensure their safe and swift return.

“This incident represents an escalation. Whilst we call for measured response, it is also clear that further protection for merchant vessels must be forthcoming to ensure enhanced security to guarantee free flow of trade in the region.”

Iran Knows Babylon the Great is Weak

It’s not often I disagree with President Trump. But as someone who has witnessed the brutal actions of Iran firsthand, I believe the president’s decision to put new financial sanctions on the country in response to the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone is simply not enough to deter Iran in the near term.

The U.S. has almost 1,000 separate sanctions levied against Iran already. There is no doubt the Iranians are being squeezed economically and their latest actions are a sign that they are feeling it. Targeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly with sanctions will likely exacerbate the situation and produce additional military strikes by Iran.

The latest attack on our own drone makes it clear to me that Iran’s hardliners currently believe we are at war with them. They have clearly been covertly at war with us for years.

US-IRAN TENSIONS: A TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS

The hardliners were smart enough, until recently, to not directly target U.S. properties. That is why this Iranian strike on our surveillance drone last week represents such a serious change in the Iranian leadership’s calculus and an escalation that absolutely warranted a direct response from our military forces.

Yet we did nothing.

By not conducting even a limited military strike, we look weak in the eyes of the Iranian leadership.

My fear is that due to this perceived weakness, we will see another Iranian attack in the near term directed against our forces. The Iranians feel emboldened because they got away with their attack on our drone.

Trump’s decision to call off airstrikes and instead increase sanctions makes the Iranian leadership believe we are not ready to take the appropriate action necessary to defend ourselves.

If we did nothing when Iran took out a $130 million drone – one of the most expensive in our arsenal – what’s to stop the Iranians from striking our other assets in the region at even half the cost? If it happens another time and we don’t conduct a military strike, Iran will continue down the same path until we do, putting more and more innocent lives in danger.

To be clear, this isn’t about being in the business of revenge. It’s something that should have been done a long time ago to stop the Iranian reign of terror. A U.S. military strike on Iran is about stopping future attacks and American deaths. Iran’s leaders have American blood on their hands and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Iran has never been held accountable for its actions. I know this all too well because I’ve personally witnessed the brutality of the Iranian regime when U.S. soldiers were killed right in front of me as a result of Iranian actions.

I nearly lost my own life when the Iranians trained, equipped, and directed a proxy group to try and bring down a building where other soldiers and I lived in Iraq. A recent Pentagon study proved that over 600 American soldiers have died as a result of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps actions between 2003 and 2011.

When will it end?

When trying to ascertain why Iran is acting as it does, many people don’t take into account Iranian culture. This is a regime that only understands the concepts of power and strength. To negotiate right now would be to surrender.

The Iranian government will send its own people to their deaths instead of surrendering to U.S. sanctions pressure. Even this week, Iran’s parliament was seen collectively chanting death to America – a clear indicator that more aggressive action is imminent.

Could you imagine members of our own Congress being psychotic enough to stand up and start screaming death to another country?

While a limited military strike would do more harm to Iran than cyberattacks and increased economic sanctions in the near term, the only thing that will stop the Iranian regime over the long term is time. The truth is that Iran has the potential of being our biggest ally strategically in the Middle East.

With nearly 60 percent of Iran’s population under the age of 30, the youth and the majority of moderates in the nation want change. They want a better relationship and business with the West. They have no appetite for war.

Unfortunately, the actions of Iran are due to a small group of hardliners hell-bent on protecting the principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They will only be stopped when their own people have had enough.

The best thing we can do now is put in place conditions to slow the Iranian regime down and allow the new generation of Iranians to correct the mistakes of the past.