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

http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/2004/images/ramapo_factsheet_img_0.gif

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Attacks the Iranian Nuclear Horn

World War 3 alert: Nuclear missile panic as Israel fires mystery rocket ‘aimed at Iran’

A NUCLEAR-capable missile caused panic as Israel’s latest military test on Friday is shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

Israel: Missile soars above Tel Aviv in test launch

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif argued Israel’s latest military test was more concerning than they had let on and hinted at it being a nuclear missile warning. Israel’s Ministry of Defence wrote on their Twitter page yesterday: “A few minutes ago, the defence establishment conducted a test of a rocket propulsion system, from a base in central Israel. The test was pre-determined and took place according to plan.” 

Mr Zarif said: “Today tested a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran.”

He also lamented that the West does not complain “about the only nuclear arsenal in West Asia but has fits of apoplexy over our conventional defensive rockets.”

Israel’s military have remained relatively quiet regarding the specifics of their latest test.

Footage from civilians has begun surfacing on social media as speculation continues.

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Israel Iran ww3

An Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system in November 2019 (Image: Getty)

Israel Iran world war 3

Social Media videos of the rocket began surfacing on social media after the launch (Image: RebeccaRambar)

Israel’s defence ministry also failed to disclose the location of the predetermined test.

Some have speculated that the test was likely to have taken place at the Palmachim airbase situated south of Tel Aviv due to the trail of smoke left by the rocket.

The military installation is believed to have a launchpad for Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles.

The Jericho ballistic missiles have been developed with American assistance however little is know of the weapon and its capabilities.

Israel missile launch

Avi Scarf, the editor for the English version of Haaretz newspaper, reported that the Air Force dispatched planes and jets to track and handle the airspace (Image: Avi Scarf )

WW3: South Korea concerned for ‘new’ North Korea weapons

Avi Scarf, the editor for the English version of Haaretz newspaper, reported that the Air Force dispatched a telemetry plane, a Hercules cargo aircraft and at least two specially configured Gulfstream G550 aerial surveillance jets to “track and handle it all.”

He added that the planes “flew all the way out past Crete”.

The Foreign Minister’s comments on the back of a letter from three European nations, the UK, France and Germany that was sent to the UN secretary-general.

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Israel news Mohammed Javad Zarif

Mohammed Javad Zarif argued Israel had aimed the missile at Iran (Image: Getty)

The appeal claimed that social media footage captured this year showed that Iran’s new Shehab-3 ballistic missile is capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

This would violate the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal.

Tehran argued against these claims and noted that social media sources were “unreliable.”

Iran About to Cross the Redline (Revelation 6:6)

Iran may have been behind attack on Iraq’s Balad base: U.S. State Dept official

Friday, December 06, 2019 1:38 p.m. CST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran may have been behind Thursday’s attack on Iraq’s Balad air base, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday, but added that Washington was awaiting further evidence.

Iraqi military on Thursday said that two Katyusha rockets landed inside Balad air base, which hosts U.S. forces and contractors and is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

No casualties or damages were reported in the attack for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“We’re waiting for full evidence, but if past is prologue then there’s a good chance that Iran was behind it,” David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters in a briefing.

On Tuesday, five rockets landed on Ain Al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces in Anbar province in western Iraq without causing any casualties.

Schenker called the increasing attacks something of “great concern,” and said Iran has become more aggressive over the past five to six months.

“The Iranians often times, or have certainly in the past, taken aggressive action when they feel under pressure,” he said.

The United States ratcheted up economic sanctions against Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and world powers to choke Iran’s oil exports and isolate its economy.

In response, Tehran has remained defiant and rolled back commitments it made under the 2015 deal aimed at keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran also has been angry over a lack of European protection from U.S. sanctions.

Some analysts have warned that cornering Tehran could make it more aggressive. Tensions in the Gulf in recent months have spiked after attacks on oil tankers and a September air strike on Saudi oil facilities, which the United States blamed on Iran, but that Tehran has denied.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Drone Bombs Home of the Antichrist

Drone bombs home of prominent Iraqi cleric as protests death toll rises

Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has backed the anti-government protests, was reportedly outside the country at the time of the attack

A drone dropped a bomb on the home of prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf early on Saturday, but he was not in the country, sources within his party told AFP news agency.

Sadr has backed protests against corruption, unemployment and a lack of public services that have rocked Baghdad and the country’s south since the beginning of October.

The drone attack came one day after he sent his supporters into the streets of the capital overnight to “protect protesters,” after unidentified gunmen attacked a protest camp, killing at least 23 people, including three police officers.

The attack took place late on Friday, when armed men took over a large building that protesters had been occupying for several weeks near al-Sinek bridge in the capital.

Witnesses told AFP news agency that gunmen in pick-up trucks attacked the building and forced the protesters from it.

More than 127 others were wounded by the gunfire and stabbings targeting anti-government protesters near Tahrir Square, police and medical sources told Reuters news agency.

It was not immediately clear if the gunmen belonged to any political or militia groups.

Protesters had feared an escalation of violence after supporters of the pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force descended on Tahrir Square on Thursday.

Three demonstrators and a witness told the Associated Press that at least 15 knife attacks took place in Tahrir Square, and that the pro-militia groups withdrew from the area later that day.

More than 430 demonstrators have been killed and tens of thousands wounded in a crackdown by Iraq’s security forces since the start of the uprising.

Last week, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he would resign amid the months-long protest movement. Yet the announcement has done little to quell the protests.

On Friday, the United States blacklisted three Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary leaders over their alleged role in the deaths of anti-government protesters. Washington said the sanctions were part of an effort to counter Iranian influence in Iraq.

Russia Aligns Against Iran (Daniel 7)

Russia suspends project with Iran due to uranium enrichment

By By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Dec 05, 2019 | 3:00 PM

MOSCOW

A Russian state company suspended a research project with Iran because of its decision to resume enriching uranium, a move a senior official said Thursday was necessary after the U.S. canceled a waiver to allow the joint venture.

The TVEL company said in a statement that Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility makes it impossible to convert the facility to produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.

Iran agreed to stop uranium enrichment under a 2015 deal with world powers to prevent it from building a bomb, but it has resumed such activities after the U.S. pulled out of the pact last year and imposed new sanctions.

TVEL’s suspension apparently reflects Moscow’s attempt to distance itself from the Iranian nuclear activities that violate the 2015 agreement to avoid the U.S. penalties. It comes after a U.S. announcement last month that the waiver allowing foreign companies to work at Fordo will end Dec. 15.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the U.S. pressure “created a difficult environment” for Russia and other participants in the pact. He said in remarks carried by the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is suspending its participation in the project to “analyze the possibilities and potential negative consequences of the American measures” but not stopping it altogether.

The Russian announcement comes a day before consultations in Vienna between Iran and the world powers involved in the deal.

Russian officials have been walking a fine line on the issue, voicing concern about the Iranian decision while also describing it as stemming from the U.S. decision to spike the deal and raise pressure on Tehran.

Last month, Ryabkov, Russia’s point-man on the Iranian nuclear deal, insisted that the project at Fordo would continue despite the resumption of uranium enrichment, noting that the Iranian move is technologically reversible.

But in its statement, TVEL argued that uranium enrichment is technologically incompatible with production of medical isotopes.

It said that Iran would need to disassemble the centrifuges currently used to enrich uranium and decontaminate the room for the medical research project to continue. Iranian officials have said it could reverse its enrichment moves if Europe offers a way for it to avoid U.S. sanctions choking off its crude oil sales abroad.

The Russian company, which makes nuclear fuel components, said it had informed Iran of its decision.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.

Last month, Iran announced that it was resuming uranium enrichment at Fordo, a heavily fortified facility inside a mountain ringed by anti-aircraft batteries that has over 1,000 centrifuges.

Under the 2015 deal, Russia and Iran were supposed to work together to turn Fordo into a research center to produce radioactive isotopes of tellurium and xenon for medical use. It was monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency , the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran limit its enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The West feared Iran could use its program to build a nuclear weapon; Iran insists the program is for peaceful purposes.

The concern is that the more uranium Iran enriches, the sooner it will have enough material to make an atomic weapon. Analysts had put that lag time at a year if Iran abided by the 2015 deal’s restrictions.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Russia is Preparing for the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

Say What? Why Russia Keeps Practicing Nuclear War

In October 2019, Russia engaged in what was apparently its largest announced strategic nuclear strike exercise in its history, Thunder (Grom)–2019. The exercise had many of the usual features of Russian large strategic nuclear exercises: personal involvement by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in authorizing simulated nuclear strikes; a reported escalation scenario with Russian first use of nuclear weapons; large numbers of live nuclear missile launches; and a reported ending of a massive Russian nuclear strike.[1] As usual, Russian strategic air defenses also played a role in Thunder-2019.[2] The Russian Defense Ministry said that “The exercise was designed to test “the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression.”[3] (Emphasis added). This is probably the most candid description of the content of a nuclear exercise since the Zapid-1999 exercise in which Russia, for the first time, announced nuclear first use.[4] The literal meaning of the statement “the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression” is strategic nuclear preemption. Nuclear weapons’ use in an exercise against the “threat of aggression” is not deterrence or retaliation but pre-emptive first use. Russian Defense Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu stated that the exercise employed high-precision nuclear weapons. These were probably low-yield since few targets require high-precision, high-yield nuclear weapons.

The Thunder-2019 strategic nuclear exercise was reportedly the largest of its class.[5] The announced duration was three days rather than the usual one.[6] It continued the trend toward an increased number of live nuclear missile launches.[7] This was the first large nuclear exercise in which there were intermediate-range Kalibr cruise missiles and 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile launches, which will be discussed below.[8] Neither the U.S. nor any NATO state has counterparts for these weapons, so there is little likelihood they were being used in response to the U.S. or NATO first use. Even if we had comparable weapons, the probability we would use them in a conventional war would be close to zero.

According to noted Russian journalist Alexander Golts, “We’re talking about rehearsing ways to conduct all-out nuclear war. Such a war will start with the use of non-strategic forces (cruise missiles) and end with a mass nuclear strike, which will mean the death of everything living on Planet Earth,” and there was no room for “misinterpretation” about this.[9] Setting aside his hyperbole about wiping out the human race (the savage Russian nuclear targeting in an all-out nuclear war could exterminate hundreds of millions of people, not billions), he is very perceptive.

Noted Russian journalist Pavel Felgenhauer observed while Russia stages a large strategic exercise every year, “The main difference this time, compared to earlier years, was the unprecedented level of public relations promotion of Grom 2019, reflecting the growing importance of nuclear deterrence in Russian internal and external policies.”[10] The amount of information released by the Russian Defense Ministry on the scope of the exercise was unprecedented. The Russian military also announced the details before the exercise, something that had never happened before.[11] The exercise involved the majority of Russian ICBM launchers.[12] This either never happened before or has happened but has never been revealed by the Russian government or in Russian press reports. It is unclear which of these alternatives is of greater concern.

According to Major General Yevgeny Ilyin at a Ministry of Defense briefing, the Grom-2019 exercises:

…will involve military units of the Strategic Missile Forces, long-range and military transport aviation commands, military units of the Western, Southern, Central and Eastern Military Districts, as well as the Northern Fleet.

This is by far the most detailed description of a major strategic nuclear exercise made by the Russian Defense Ministry. Normally these exercises are not even given names in public announcements much less described in terms of an order of battle. While Russian Ministry of Defense public statements about Strategic Missile Force (RVSN) only exercises have occasionally stated the number of ICBM launchers involved, this has never been the case in the large nuclear exercises. The announced Strategic Missile Force component was over two-thirds of the estimate of about 300 deployed ICBMs.[14] Russia’s September 2019 New START Treaty data indicate Russia had 513 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers.[15] According to the Russian statement quoted above, at least 250 ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers participated in Thunder-2019.

On October 17th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that “…crews of Iskander operational-tactical missile complex launched of (sic!) cruise missiles at the training grounds of the Southern and Eastern Military Districts.”[16] A video released by the Russian Defense Ministry reportedly shows the launching of the SSC-8/9M729, the intermediate-range missile that violated the INF Treaty.[17]

The same day Thunder-2019 started, the Russian Defense Ministry announced, “Over 8,000 missile and artillery troops held a simultaneous live-fire exercise at 30 training ranges in Southern Russia.”[18] This was likely part of the Thunder-2019 exercise. It was probably announced as a separate exercise to evade the legal notification requirements relating to military exercises in Europe. The Iskander missiles (owned by the Missile and Artillery Force) were used in Thunder-2019.[19] Since the Missile and Artillery Force own a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons than announced for the exercise (including Close Range Missiles and nuclear artillery),[20] it is possible that a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons was used than was announced.

Even more ominous, Felgenhauer reported that “Practically all the RVSN intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) involved in Grom 2019 mimicked going through their launch sequences.”[21] While this is the first time we have a detailed official order of battle for a Russian large strategic nuclear exercise, it seems consistent with the previous press reports that the Russian strategic nuclear exercises ended with a massive Russian nuclear strike.[22] For example, in the 2010 large strategic nuclear exercise, there was a Russian press report that Russia had “simulated hundreds of missile launches and, “Throughout the world, the mushroom clouds rose skyward.”[23]

The involvement of nuclear-capable non-strategic strike aircraft in the exercises is not clear. General Ilyin stated that 105 aircraft (100 of them were not strategic bombers but not otherwise identified) and 10 airbases were involved but provided no other detail.[24] Hence, there may have been the involvement of air-launched non-strategic nuclear weapons since this is one of Russia’s major nuclear assets.[25]

Of course, the ICBM and SLBM launches, real and simulated, were apparently targeted on the U.S. because of their range and because they are no longer really needed against peripheral targets due to Russian deployment of ground-launched and ship-launched cruise missiles. The nuclear cruise missile launches, based on the locations of the fleets involved, appear to have been mainly targeted on Europe. Actual launches in the Far East Military District and Kalibr launches from submarines and surface ships from the Pacific Ocean[26] were obviously targeted against Far Eastern facilities, possibly including Japan and South Korea, in light of the range of these missiles. Russian Tu-95 heavy bombers reportedly launched legacy Soviet Kh-55 nuclear-only long-range cruise missiles.[27] Since the launch was from the Arctic, they likely were simulating attacks against the U.S.[28]

The Russians announced that the exercise would involve weapons based on “new physical principles.”[29] What these are we do not know from open sources. The suggestion that this was a reference to hypersonic weapons does not make sense. First, weapons based on “other physical principles” is a term used in the former ABM Treaty to describe directed energy weapons. Secondly, Russia apparently did not have any operational naval hypersonic weapons at the time of the exercise. The only hypersonic missile known to be operational, the Kinzhal, was Air Force, not Navy, and the first launch of a Kinzhal from the Arctic didn’t happen until about six weeks after the Thunder-2019 exercise.[30] Moreover, in November 2019, President Putin characterized “weapons based on new principles of physics” as a different category from hypersonic missiles.[31] “New physical principles” weapons are clearly known unknowns.

Palestinians Protest Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

A boy tries to evacuate a wounded Palestinian child during a protest at the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Palestinians protest at Gaza-Israel fence after 3-week pause

Gaza’s health ministry says 14 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli fire, four of them with live gunshots.

Thousands of Palestinians have demonstrated along the Gaza Strip’s perimeter fence with Israel as weekly protests resumed after a three-week pause.

At least 14 Palestinians taking part in Friday’s Great March of Return protests were wounded by Israeli fire, four of them with live gunshots, according to the health ministry in the besieged enclave.

The protest organisers had announced the suspension of the demonstrations in mid-November to avoid casualties among Palestinians following an escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza and the fighting that followed it.

Last month’s violence, the worst in months, was sparked by an Israeli targeted killing of a senior commander of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. During the two days of fighting that followed the killing of Abu al-Ata, Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets towards Israel, which carried out a number of air raids that killed 34 Palestinians, including nine members of a single family, all of whom were civilians.

Since the Gaza rallies began in March last year, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded by Israeli forces at the fence areas around Gaza.

Demonstrators demand an end to an Israeli-Egyptian 12-year-old blockade around the Gaza Strip, which has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of free movement in and out from Gaza, preventing the entry of many basic amenities.

Over the past decade, Israel has launched three military assaults on the Gaza Strip and there have been dozens of shorter skirmishes.