Columbia University Warns Of Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

 

Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study

A study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.

Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.

The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”

Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.

One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.

The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.

“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”

The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.

Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”

The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.

The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.

Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.

“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”

New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:

Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.

Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.

New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.

Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.

The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.

Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.

Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.

In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.

The US and Pakistan Horns Separate (Daniel 7-8)

No US aid for Pakistan as decisive action against terror pending: Report

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan

Ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States, a Congressional report has said the security assistance to Pakistan would remain suspended pending “decisive and irreversible” action against terrorist groups.

At the direction of President Donald Trump, the US had suspended all its security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018. This is first high-level trip by a Pakistani prime minster to the White House during the Trump administration.

“Pakistan is a haven for numerous Islamist extremist and terrorist groups, and successive Pakistani governments are widely believed to have tolerated and even supported some of these as proxies in Islamabad’s historical conflicts with its neighbors,” the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a latest report on Pakistan.

The CRS is an independent and bipartisan research wing of the the US Congress, which prepares periodic reports on issues of interest for lawmakers to make informed decisions. Its reports are prepared by eminent experts of the field and are not considered as an official view of the Congress.

The latest CRS report told lawmakers that the 2011 revelation that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had enjoyed years-long refuge in Pakistan led to intensive US government scrutiny of the bilateral relationship. It also sparked congressional questioning of the wisdom of providing significant aid to a nation that may not have the intention or capacity to be an effective partner.

The Trump administration has taken a harder line on Pakistan than its predecessors, sharply cutting assistance and suspending security-related aid, said the CRS report dated July 15.

“The United States continues to press for decisive and irreversible action against externally-focused militant groups and UN-designated terrorist organizations operating from its territory,” it said. “Pending such action, security assistance will remain suspended.”

During a September 2018 visit to Islamabad amidst talk of a “reset” of bilateral ties, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope that the US could find common ground with Pakistan’s new leadership, but mutual distrust was seen to be pervasive in the relationship and American leverage was much reduced.

In mid-2017, the administration announced that it would “pause” disbursement of $255 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and announced a broader security aid suspension in January 2018. According to the State Department, about $790 million in unobligated FMF dating back to 2001 is affected.

Pakistani politicians and analysts of all stripes decried what they perceived as an effort to scapegoat their country for US policy failures in Afghanistan. The administration’s 2020 budget request for assistance to Pakistan totals about $70 million, including $48 million for economic and development aid.

Noting that numerous indigenous terrorist groups operate on or from Pakistani territory, many designated as ‘Foreign Terrorist Organisations’ under the US law, the CRS said incidents of domestic terrorism decreased since the Pakistan Army launched major operations in 2014.

However, some externally-oriented terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba continue to operate, by some accounts supported by state elements. Al Qaeda and Islamic State networks are also present in Pakistan, it said. According to the report, Pakistan’s continued conflict and rivalry with India is unabated, with international fears about the possibility of war between two nuclear-armed powers.

Pakistan, it said, seeks to raise the issue of Kashmiri rights internationally, while India rejects any high-level peace negotiations pending decisive Pakistani action against anti-India militants inside Pakistan. The report also notes that the Trump administration had noted Pakistan’s growing debt to China and expressed opposition to any bailout that would go to reducing such debt.

Pakistan’s Finance Ministry denies that the IMF funds would be used to repay Chinese debt and it is seeking to renegotiate aspects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to reduce long-term debt, the CRS said.

Babylon the Great Returns to the Middle East

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command, right, shakes hands with airmen of the Royal Saudi Air Force on Prince Sultan Air Base, July 18, 2019. While visiting the Central region, McKenzie met with forward deployed troops and key allied leaders and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to security and stability in the region. (Roderick Jacquote/Marine Corps)

US Troops Returning to Saudi Arabia Amid Threats from Iran

Robert Burns

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Iranian military threats in mind, the United States is sending American forces, including fighter aircraft, air defense missiles and likely more than 500 troops, to a Saudi air base that became a hub of American air power in the Middle East in the 1990s but was abandoned by Washington after it toppled Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry announced the basing agreement Friday without mentioning details.

Senior American defense officials said some U.S. troops and Patriot air defense missile systems have already arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base, south of Riyadh, where the troops have been preparing for the arrival of aircraft later this summer as well as additional troops. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to provide details not publicly announced.

The agreement has been in the works for many weeks and is not a response specifically to Friday’s seizure by Iran of a British tanker in the Persian Gulf. Tensions with Iran have spiked since May when the Trump administration said it had detected increased Iranian preparations for possible attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Gulf area. The

In a written statement Friday evening, U.S. Central Command said the deployments to Saudi Arabia had been approved by the Pentagon.

“This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats,” Central Command said. “This movement creates improvement of operational depth and logistical networks. U.S. Central Command continually assesses force posture in the region and is working with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities to base U.S. assets at the appropriate locations.”

Putting U.S. combat forces back in Saudi Arabia, after an absence of more than a decade, adds depth to the regional alignment of U.S. military power, which is mostly in locations on the Persian Gulf that are more vulnerable to Iranian missile attack.

But it also introduces a political and diplomatic complication for the Trump administration, accused by critics of coddling the Saudis even after the murder last fall of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Many in Congress now question the decades-old U.S.-Saudi security alliance and oppose major new arms sales to the kingdom.

Starting with the January 1991 air war against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait the previous summer, the U.S. flew a wide range of aircraft from Prince Sultan air base, originally known as al-Kharj. Supported by an all-American array of creature comforts like fast-food restaurants and swimming pools, U.S. forces there flew and maintained Air Force fighters and other warplanes.

The base also served as a launch pad for the December 1998 bombing of Iraq, code-named Operation Desert Fox, which targeted sites believed to be associated with Iraq’s nuclear and missile programs. In 2001, the base became home to the U.S. military’s main air control organization, known as the Combined Air Operations Center, which orchestrated the air war in Afghanistan until it was relocated in 2003 to al-Udeid air base in Qatar.

This article was written by Robert Burns from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Do Not Damage the Oil (Revelation 6:6)

Iran captures UK tanker: Timeline of political tensions in Persian Gulf before seizure

July 19, 2019, 3:30 PM MDT

The seizure of the Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz is the latest episode to contribute to rising tensions between the UK, US and Iran in the region.After Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a long term nuclear agreement it had signed with five other world powers, tensions have worsened with Washington. Iran has refused to negotiate any changes, and has threatened to further break the terms of the agreement if Europe does not help limit the effects of US sanctions. It has also broken restrictions on its production of enriched uranium, used to make reactor fuel but also potentially nuclear bombs.Tensions between the UK and Iran flared up earlier this month when Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker which was suspected of breaking European Union sanctions. The UK suspected Grace 1, detained near Gibraltar, was carrying oil bound for Syria.Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said it would be released if Tehran guaranteed its oil would not be given to the country’s president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Here is a timeline of recent incidents involving the three nations:13 June: Two US oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz were attacked in an assault that left one ablaze and adrift, with 44 sailors evacuated from both vessels. The US Navy went to assist, with Mr Trump blaming Iran for the incidents.Iran denied involvement in the tanker attacks and accused the US of promoting an campaign.20.20 June: A US military drone worth $100m (£78m) was downed by Tehran, with Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani claiming it had violated their airspace.The move marked a new high in the rising tensions between the two countries, as Iran’s naval commander warned his forces would not hesitate to down more US drones if they entered its airspace.Mr Trump then pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes on Iran after he was told 150 people could die.He has since signed an executive order targeting Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his associates with financial sanctions.4 July: Royal Marines from 42 Commando were involved in an operation to seize a supertanker off Gibraltar suspected of carrying oil destined for Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime. They boarded the ship by descending on ropes from a Wildcat helicopter and by using rigid inflatable boats.They worked alongside authorities in Gibraltar to detain the Iranian tanker Grace 1, which was believed to be heading to the Banyas refinery in breach of EU sanctions. In response, Iran’s revolutionary guard warned a British oil tanker could be seized in retaliation.10 July: Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose drove off three Iranian vessels which tried to stop the commercial ship British Heritage.It is understood the tanker was making passage out of the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz when the ship was approached by the Iranian vessels. HMS Montrose was nearby and proceeded to come in between.Warnings were given but no shots were fired. The Iranian vessels then turned around and left.11 July: Police in Gibraltar said they had arrested the captain and chief officer of the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in relation to suspected violations of EU sanctions on Syria.Two days later the force said the captain, chief officer and two second officers of the vessel had been conditionally bailed without charge.13 July: In a telephone call with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt offered to facilitate Grace 1’s release in return for guarantees from Tehran that it would not breach EU sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria.15 July: Mr Hunt attended a Brussels meeting of EU foreign ministers on the issue of the Iran nuclear deal. He said there was a "small window" of hope for preventing the international agreement, aimed at stopping Tehran gaining nuclear weapons, from unravelling.Both he and Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson later ruled out supporting Mr Trump should he pursue military action in the Gulf.16 July: Ali Khamenei called the seizure of the Grace 1 tanker "piracy" and vowed to retaliate. He said: "God willing, the Islamic Republic and its committed forces will not leave this evilness without a response."17 July: US officials said they suspected Iran had seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates as it travelled through the Strait of Hormuz. The tanker had turned off its tracker three days before as it entered Iranian waters.Iran later said its Revolutionary Guard had seized a foreign oil tanker and its crew of 12 for smuggling fuel out of the country.18 July: Mr Trump said the USS Boxer had shot down an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored calls to stand down.Iranian military officials denied one of its drones had been lost in the Strait of Hormuz.19 July: Two oil tankers are reported to have been seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf.The Stena Impero, registered in the UK, was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz for "violating international maritime rules", the semi-official Fars news agency said.A second oil tanker, the Liberia-flagged Mesdar, owned and operated by Glasgow-based firm Norbulk, appeared to veer off course towards the Iranian coast.The Mesdar’s operator said the ship was boarded by armed guards but the crew were left and allowed to continue their voyage.Jeremy Hunt called the ships’ seizure "unacceptable" ahead of attending a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra.Press Association contributed to this report

97 Injured Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

97 injured in Gaza border protests

By TAMAR BEERI

As on every Friday, protests broke out along the Gaza border with some 7,000 people demonstrating. Some 74 people were reported as having been injured, as well as four paramedics and two reporters.

Of those injured during the weekly protest, 47 were hurt by live fire coming from Israeli territory.  This week’s protest march was called “Burning the Israeli Flag.”

Stones were thrown in large waves at the fence along the border, as well as explosive devices.

UK Prepares to Fight Against Iran

Iran’s top diplomat in UK summoned over seizure of Stena Impero tanker

UK foreign secretary expresses ‘extreme disappointment’ over action to Iranian counterpart

Emma Graham-Harrison

The British government has summoned Tehran’s top diplomat in London and warned UK ships to temporarily avoid the strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker off its coast, deepening the crisis in the Gulf.

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Saturday that he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to express “extreme disappointment” over Iran’s actions, and vowed to protect UK ships during the crisis.

“Having assured me last Sat[urday] Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation they have behaved in the opposite way,” Hunt said on Twitter. “This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must and will be protected.”

A British Royal Navy frigate was just an hour from the scene when Iranian forces took control of the British-flagged Stena Impero, the defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt, told Sky News. She said the tanker was in Omani waters at the time.

Hunt earlier promised a robust response if the tanker was not released, but said the government was not contemplating military action.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted: “The UK tanker under Iranian control, and its crew, must be released. Escalation risks a deeper conflict, all sides must show restraint.

“Trump tearing up the Iran nuclear deal has fueled confrontation. Its negotiated reinstatement is essential to defuse threat of war in the Gulf.”

Stena Bulk said in a statement: “Our insurers in the region have been in contact with the head of marine affairs at the Port of Bandar Abbas, who has reported that the crew members of our vessel Stena Impero are in ‘good health’ and that the tanker is at the nearby Bandar Bahonar anchorage.

“The head of marine affairs has asked a formal request be made for a visit to be arranged to the crew members and vessel. I can confirm this formal request is being prepared forthwith.

“Our insurers have also advised that the head of marine affairs has confirmed to them that no instructions have been received so far as to what will happen to the ship.”

The Cobra emergency committee met on Saturday afternoon to discuss the crisis, the second such gathering in under 24 hours. The standoff between the west and Iran has escalated at a particularly difficult time for Britain, just four days before Theresa May is due to hand power to another leader.

Iran’s charge d’affaires, the country’s most senior diplomat in London, was also summoned to the Foreign Office over the incident, the Press Association reported.

Iran’s capture of the tanker and its 23 crew came two weeks after Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria in violation of an EU embargo, and just hours after authorities in Gibraltar announced that they would extend their custody of the vessel.

Friday’s action was widely seen as a response to the seizure of the Grace 1, which Tehran denounced as piracy carried out on the orders of Washington, and Iran on Saturday appeared to make the link explicit.

“The rule of reciprocal action is well known in international law,” Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Iran’s moves to “confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights”, he added. The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s views.

Hunt said UK forces had followed international law. “Yesterday’s action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s legal detention of oil bound for Syria,” Hunt said on Twitter. “We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace1 issue but will ensure the safety of our shipping.”

A second Liberian-flagged but British operated tanker was also detained for several hours by Iranian forces on Friday. The Mesdar made a sudden diversion from its planned course, and began moving towards the Iranian coast before apparently turning off its tracking signal.

Its Glasgow-based operator, Norbulk Shipping UK, confirmed that the vessel had been boarded by armed guards but had then been allowed to continue its voyage. Fars reported it was given a notice to meet environmental regulations.

About a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the strait of Hormuz, the busiest shipping lane in the world for crude tankers, and under 25 miles (40km) wide at its narrowest point. Tensions in the Gulf had already affected oil trading, and Friday’s tanker seizures caused prices to rise.

Tensions between the US and Iran have soared, with Washington dispatching warships to the Gulf, and Tehran resuming higher uranium enrichment.

12 May 2019

The UAE says four commercial ships off its eastern coast ‘were subjected to sabotage operations’.

14 May 2019

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch a drone attack on Saudi Arabia, striking a major oil pipeline and taking it out of service.

16 May 2019

Saudi Arabia blames Iran for the drone attack on its pipeline.

19 May 2019

A rocket lands near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, without harming anyone. It’s not clear who is behind the attack, but after the initial reports, Donald Trump tweets: ‘If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!’

24 May 2019

Senior Pentagon officer Vice-admiral Michael Gilday says the US has a high degree of confidence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were responsible for the explosions on the four tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

12 June 2019

Saudi Arabia says 26 people were wounded in an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on an airport in the kingdom’s south-western town of Abha.

13 June 2019

Two oil tankers near the strategic strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked in an assault that left one ablaze and adrift. 44 sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the US navy assisted.

20 June 2019

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards say they have shot down what they called a US ‘spy’ drone they claim was flying in in the country’s airspace. The US military confirm one of its drones has been taken down, but say it was in international airspace.

21 June 2019

Donald Trump reportedly gives approval for the US military to launch strikes on Iran in retaliation for the loss of the drone, before pulling back at the last minute.

25 June 2019

The Iranian and US presidents trade insults, with Hassan Rouhani suggesting that Donald Trump suffered from a “mental disorder” and Trump once more threatening Iran with “obliteration”.

8 July 2019

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the body tasked with verifying Iranian compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal, verifies that Tehran has breached the agreed 3.67% limit for enriched uranium.

11 July 2019

The UK government says three Iranian boats were warned off by the frigate HMS Montrose after Iranian boats ‘attempted to impede’ a British oil tanker in strait of Hormuz. Tehran denies involvement.

18 July 2019

Iran says it has seized a foreign oil tanker in the Gulf. A report on state TV says the ship was smuggling oil but does not say which country crew are from.

19 July 2019

Iran denies a claim by Donald Trump that the US destroyed one of its drones in the strait of Hormuz. The US president says the USS Boxer took ‘defensive action’ against an unmanned aircraft. Tehran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, tweeted: “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [unmanned aerial system] by mistake!”

Iran’s official Irna news agency said the impounded Stena Impero had been detained after colliding with a fishing boat, whose crew notified authorities on land. Its owners say it was intercepted in international waters, by four small craft and a helicopter, when in “full compliance with all navigation and international regulations”.

The ship has been taken to Bandar Abbas, one of the country’s main military ports, Fars reported.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said if the report was correct, Britain should rule out the use of force in response. “That’s an important Iranian military port and I think any military options will therefore be extremely unwise,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Late on Friday night, the British government advised UK ships to stay out of the area “for an interim period” and said it was talking to international partners.

France’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it was very concerned by the seizure of the Stena Impero, saying such an action harmed de-escalation efforts in the region. Germany’s foreign ministry said it was an “unjustifiable intrusion” on shipping through a key shipping route and urged Iran to release the ship and crew.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions, which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation,” a government statement said, following a meeting of ministers to discuss the incident in the strait of Hormuz.

The detention comes at a time of high tension in the region, with US, British and Iranian forces facing off at sea. Iranian politicians have called for reprisals over the detention of the Grace 1.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards previously attempted to capture a British tanker six days after the Grace 1 was 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.

Q&A

Why is the Gulf of Oman so important for shipping oil?

The strait of Hormuz, which provides passage from the Gulf of Oman to the open sea, is the most important gateway for oil exports in the world. With Iran on its northern shore, and the UAE and Oman on its southern shore, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) calls it the world’s worst ‘chokepoint’

In 2016, 18.5m barrels of crude oil were transported each day through the strait of Hormuz, compared with 16m through the strait of Malacca, which runs between the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Malaysia and Thailand, connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea. 5m barrels of crude oil are transported annually through the next largest chokepoint, the Suez canal.

Phillip Inman

The battle of nerves along the oil export routes of the Gulf has involved other close encounters between Iranian, UK and US military forces. Earlier on Friday, Tehran denied Trump’s claim that US forces had downed an Iranian drone over the Gulf, although the US president was adamant.

The prospect of a diplomatic resolution appeared to be receding however after a senior US official on Friday dismissed a nuclear offer proposed the previous day by Iran’s foreign minister.

The official suggested the offer, made during a visit to New York, 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 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.

Babylon the Great’s Futile Efforts to Halt the Iran Nuclear Horn

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (file photo)

U.S. Slaps Sanctions On Nuclear Supply Network For Iran’s Enrichment Program

July 19, 2019 00:28 GMT

By RFE/RL

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department on July 18 imposed additional sanctions on Iran that target its nuclear-enrichment program.

They are the first restrictive measures since Tehran said earlier this month that it would increase enriched uranium levels to above those allowed under the terms of a 2015 nuclear accord.

The blacklist includes five people and an international group of companies in Iran, Belgium, and China that acted as a supply network for Iran’s nuclear program.

The individuals and entities are subject to asset freezes within the United States and will be denied access to the U.S. financial system as well as listed as “weapons of mass destruction proliferators,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“Iran cannot claim benign intent on the world stage while it purchases and stockpiles products for centrifuges,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Tehran had initially promised to greatly limit its nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits based on a 2015 accord with six world powers, including the United States.

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed economically crippling sanctions in many sectors, including the crucial oil and financial industries.

France, Germany, and Britain — three of the six remaining accord signatories — have tried to salvage the deal and have proposed a complicated financial barter system designed to provide some economic relief to Tehran.

Iran says it no longer feels bound by the accord and on July 1 said it had amassed more than the permitted amount of low-enriched uranium.