The Year of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

15073790937_a2b5f1e61f_bSloshing of Earth’s core may spike major earthquakes

By Paul VoosenOct. 30, 2017 , 1:45 PM

The number of major earthquakes, like the magnitude-7 one that devastated Haiti in 2010, seems to be correlated with minute fluctuations in day length.

SEATTLE—The world doesn’t stop spinning. But every so often, it slows down. For decades, scientists have charted tiny fluctuations in the length of Earth’s day: Gain a millisecond here, lose a millisecond there. Last week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America here, two geophysicists argued that these minute changes could be enough to influence the timing of major earthquakes—and potentially help forecast them.

During the past 100 years, Earth’s slowdowns have correlated surprisingly well with periods with a global increase in magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes, according to Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick at the University of Montana in Missoula. Usefully, the spike, which adds two to five more quakes than typical, happens well after the slow-down begins. “The Earth offers us a 5-years heads up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable,” says Bilham, who presented the work.

Most seismologists agree that earthquake prediction is a minefield. And so far, Bilham and Bendick have only fuzzy, hard-to-test ideas about what might cause the pattern they found. But the finding is too provocative to ignore, other researchers say. “The correlation they’ve found is remarkable, and deserves investigation,” says Peter Molnar, a geologist also at CU.

The research started as a search for synchrony in earthquake timing. Individual oscillators, be they fireflies, heart muscles, or metronomes, can end up vibrating in synchrony as a result of some kind of cross-talk—or some common influence. To Bendick, it didn’t seem a far jump to consider the faults that cause earthquakes, with their cyclical buildup of strain and violent discharge, as “really noisy, really crummy oscillators,” she says. She and Bilham dove into the data, using the only complete earthquake catalog for the past 100 years: magnitude-7 and larger earthquakes.

In work published in August in Geophysical Research Letters they reported two patterns: First, major quakes appeared to cluster in time

—although not in space. And second, the number of large earthquakes seemed to peak at 32-year intervals. The earthquakes could be somehow talking to each other, or an external force could be nudging the earth into rupture.

Exploring such global forces, the researchers eventually discovered the match with the length of day. Although weather patterns such as El Nino can drive day length to vary back and forth by a millisecond over a year or more, a periodic, decades-long fluctuation of several milliseconds—in particular, its point of peak slow down about every three decades or so—lined up with the quake trend perfectly. “Of course that seems sort of crazy,” Bendick says. But maybe it isn’t. When day length changes over decades, Earth’s magnetic field also develops a temporary ripple. Researchers think slight changes in the flow of the molten iron of the outer core may be responsible for both effects. Just what happens is uncertain—perhaps a bit of the molten outer core sticks to the mantle above. That might change the flow of the liquid metal, altering the magnetic field, and transfer enough momentum between the mantle and the core to affect day length.

Seismologists aren’t used to thinking about the planet’s core, buried 2900 kilometers beneath the crust where quakes happen. But they should, Bilham said during his talk here. The core is “quite close to us. It’s closer than New York from here,” he said.

At the equator, Earth spins 460 meters per second. Given this high velocity, it’s not absurd to think that a slight mismatch in speed between the solid crust and mantle and the liquid core could translate into a force somehow nudging quakes into synchrony, Molnar says. Of course, he adds, “It might be nonsense.” But the evidence for some kind of link is compelling, says geophysicist Michael Manga of the University of California, Berkeley. “I’ve worked on earthquakes triggered by seasonal variation, melting snow. His correlation is much better than what I’m used to seeing.”

One way or another, says James Dolan, a geologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “we’re going to know in 5 years.” That’s because Earth’s rotation began a periodic slow-down 4-plus years ago. Beginning next year, Earth should expect five more major earthquakes a year than average—between 17 to 20 quakes, compared with the anomalously low four so far this year. If the pattern holds, it will put a new spin on earthquake forecasting.

doi:10.1126/science.aar3598

Australia: The Next Nuclear Weapons State (Daniel 8)

The Next Nuclear Weapons State: Australia?

ASPI releases today the second issue of its Strategist Selections series, pulling together a collection of 36 of my Strategist posts on nuclear strategy. I’m honoured to follow in the footsteps of Kim Beazley, whose collected posts formed the first issue, and hope that readers find value in the latest publication. The Strategist, ASPI’s commentary and analysis site, is now over seven years old, and a vast archive of more than 6,000 articles is there for the mining. I do not think the latest volume in the series could be more timely.

In recent months the question of whether Australia should build its own nuclear arsenal has received considerable attention. It’s a question that demands careful handling, not least because it’s an invitation to the incautious respondent to take a length of rope and hang themselves in the corner. And all too often, respondents do exactly that, burdening the argument for a domestic nuclear arsenal with poor judgement, strategic paranoia and moral insensibilities.

For many years the simple, formal answer to the question has always been the same: Australia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it is not a repentant state. (Repentant states are those that signed the treaty but later came to regret their own hastiness.) That’s because the NPT generally represents the last major occasion on which states were asked to choose their nuclear identity.

The strategic commentariat has, over the years, been reluctant to challenge the choice Canberra made then. For good reason: Australia hasn’t confronted a serious strategic challenge since Richard Nixon’s opening to China, an event almost contemporaneous with the NPT. That’s why Hugh White’s recent book is novel. It explores the option of an indigenous arsenal essentially in 21st-century strategic terms.

So, should Australia build its own nuclear arsenal? I think the answer is, ‘Yes, if it needs to.’ That’s a big ‘if’—indeed, a series of big ‘ifs’: if the regional strategic environment becomes appreciably darker; if US extended nuclear deterrence is no longer available, or patently incredible; and, perhaps just as importantly, if there’s bipartisan Australian acceptance of the need for an indigenous arsenal.

The first ‘if’ poses a major challenge of assessment: how dark does the regional strategic environment need to be? The fact that the Australian mainstream is already broken over the ‘China threat’, despite China’s recent blatantly coercive behaviour, doesn’t bode well for its ability to reach a consensus on what might constitute the grounds for initiating a nuclear-weapons program.

I’d venture one, imperfect, benchmark: the environment would need to be sufficiently dark that an Australian nuclear-weapons program would be seen (by some countries at least) as a positive contribution to regional stability. It certainly would have to be dark enough for us to satisfy the ‘supreme national interests’ test of Article X of the NPT—the article covering withdrawal from the treaty.

The second ‘if’—extended deterrence—is already encountering some choppy waters, waters which Donald Trump’s presidency has roiled rather than calmed. True, the administration’s 2018 nuclear posture review comes closer to underlining the specific provision of a US nuclear umbrella to Australia than any of its predecessors. On page 22 of the main text, there’s a sentence that reads: ‘The United States has extended nuclear deterrence commitments that assure European, Asian, and Pacific allies.’ That’s an interesting separation of America’s usually hyphenated Asian and Pacific allies, and may reflect a deliberate attempt by Washington to reinforce its assurance to Australia.

Still, US extended nuclear deterrence was a doctrine invented for a different era; it faces genuine credibility issues in a more risk-tolerant world, especially if themes of nationalism and buck-passing continue to resonate in US strategic policy.

The third ‘if’ is just as awkward, and often overlooked. Australia, to use a rowing metaphor, hasn’t got its head in the boat in relation to an indigenous nuclear-weapons program. For Australian thinking about nuclear weapons to change, we’d probably have to be facing an existential threat. Only such a condition could generate the level of bipartisan agreement necessary to develop, build and deploy a serious nuclear force.

But, of course, if we were staring down the barrel of an existential threat, we’d probably want to have a nuclear arsenal to hand relatively quickly. And there’s the problem. Nuclear-weapons programs take time. In wintertime, many Canberrans are acutely conscious of how far their most remote hot-water tap is from their hot-water system, and the amount of time it takes for hot water to move through the house. But pursuing an indigenous nuclear-weapons program in Australia’s current circumstances would be worse: it would be the equivalent of turning on a tap in a house to which no hot-water system had ever been fitted.

It would be easier to build nuclear weapons if we had in place a stronger core of nuclear skills in our workforce, some capacity to produce fissionable materials, and a suitable delivery vehicle. (More ‘ifs’.) Australia has few of those assets. We have one research reactor at Lucas Heights. We have neither an enrichment capability for uranium nor a reprocessing facility for plutonium. And our best delivery vehicle, the F-111, has long since faded into history. If Australia was to attempt to proliferate, using only national resources, we’d likely face a 15-year-plus haul.

Working in partnership with others would allow us to shorten that timeframe. Indeed, in a post-NPT world we might even be able to buy an arsenal, or critical parts thereof, off the shelf—our usual path to acquiring high-technology military weaponry. But that seems an unlikely scenario.

Nuclear weapons cast long political shadows—which, indeed, is their primary purpose. But they’re also weapons of mass destruction, meaning a decision to proliferate should never be taken lightly.

Personally, I think there are enough large strategic variables already at play that we should be thinking now about an indigenous nuclear-weapons program in much the same way that we did between the 1950s and 1970s.

That is, we should be acting to minimise the lead time required for us to have such a capability, just in case we decide we do need it.

This article first appeared at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in 2019.

Image: Reuters.

Russia’s Deadly Nuclear Arsenal ((Daniel 7)

Learn About the 100-Megaton Nuclear Torpedos Russia Has Up Its Sleeve

Key Point: The development of new weapons systems may benefit the military-industrial complex, but they don’t benefit the safety of Russians or Americans.

The “collateral damage” of the Russia investigation becomes ever more apparent. From the breakdown of American institutional norms between the executive and the legislature, to increasing distrust regarding the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus to regional crises, for example in Syria, that seem to spin increasingly out of control, the probe has brought both U.S. domestic and foreign policy making to a the point of crisis. Yet these calamities, which are largely advantageous to newspaper subscriptions and cable news ratings, may mask a deeper and more fundamental threat: the accelerating pace of a nuclear arms race [гонка ядерных вооружений] between Moscow and Washington.

Even during the relatively halcyon days of the 1990s, the Kremlin still kept its finger on the nuclear trigger, in part due to the perceived weakness of its conventional forces but also as a reaction to NATO’s new interest in “out of area” missions. The successive waves of NATO expansion that began in 1999 had the predictable effect of significantly exaggerating strategic tensions and ballistic missile defense programs made an already touchy situation worse. Thus, even as the Obama administration first talked about a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations, the Kremlin was already starting to implement a major overhaul of its nuclear forces. However, the dam was completely broken by the Ukraine crisis beginning in spring 2014. The Cold War has returned in force with the full flowering of the Russia investigation that shows few signs of easing its “death grip” on Washington, DC and U.S.-Russia relations specifically. The multitudes of Russia hawks on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the Beltway, now more strident on the Left than the Right, may count the truly grotesque Status-6 Russian naval, mega-nuclear weapon as the fruit of their bellicose ravings.

This “megaton-class nuclear weapon” [ядерное оружие мегатонного класса], as described by one Russian source, is delivered by an unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and has the potential to exterminate a significant portion of the U.S. population in a single doomsday blow if deployed against the East Coast of the United States. This source explains: the Status-6 UUV is “designed to defeat important enemy economic facilities in the region of the coast and to inflict guaranteed unacceptable damage to the country’s territory by creating zones of extensive radioactive contamination unsuitable for carrying out military, economic and other activities in these zones for a long time.” [предназначен для поражение важных объектов экономики противника в районе побережья и нанесение гарантированного неприемлемого ущерба территории страны путем создания зон обширного радиоактивного заражения, непригодных для осуществления в этих зонах военной, хозяйственно-экономической и иной деятельности в течение длительного времени]. For good measure, it is additionally explained that the weapon can also be used to destroy naval bases or aircraft carrier battle groups. This edition of Bear Cave takes makes a brief examination of what Russian commentators are actually saying about Status-6.

First, however, it should be said that TNI has carried several articles that provide a good analysis of this new weapons system, including in particular, a fine exploratory piece by Dave Majumdar. He quotes CSBA undersea warfare expert Bryan Clark explaining that the system is far from an ideal weapon and may face real technical hurdles since a one-hundred megaton weapon could be exceedingly heavy and thus “difficult to control.” Monterey nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis is quoted reassuringly as saying: “I think we could build defenses against it … It should be easier than intercepting a missile, for sure.” To state the obvious at the outset: this Russian system’s main advantage is that it bypasses missile defenses altogether. Needless to say, it is a grave symptom of the new and continuously accelerating Cold War.

A few more details could be worth noting from the above Russian source, associated with the Russian military industrial complex [Военный Промышленный Комплекс]. Status-6 is reported to be powered by a liquid metal reactor and is said to have a cruising speed of 55km per hours. But it is apparently capable of a sprint at 100 to 185km per hour, allowing it to escape, according to this source, from any existing torpedoes employed by adversaries. Good to a depth of 1000m, the vehicle is said to be 26m in length and 1.6m in width. This report may confirm a U.S. intelligence assessment that a “successful test launch” [произведен успешный испытательный пуск] was undertaken on 27 November 2016 by the submarine Sarov. This project is apparently being developed by the submarine design bureau Rubin [Рубин] and is described as a “deterrent weapon with a 100% guarantee of operation.”

Reflecting evidently on the comments by Bryan Clark in the article cited above, another Russian appraisal commented in January 2018 that: “… unfortunately for those who dream of the destruction of America by a giant tsunami, the ‘Status-6’ project is not so terrible as it is painted.” Another Russian analysis is considerably less frivolous and suggests the Status-6 is not just an “asymmetric response” [асимметричный ответ] to the deployment of BMD installations in Eastern Europe, but is also a reaction to “the placement of NATO battalions in Poland and the Baltics and other potentially aggressive actions of Washington against Russia.” That discussion points out that this project was first developed in the early Cold War, but could not be fully realized because of technical limitations. It is explained that “after half a century, the problem with the reactor has been solved…” [через полвека проблема с реактором была решена] and thus now the project is feasible.

An additional December 2017 Russian report suggests that “The US is Preparing an Answer for Russia’s Nuclear Torpedo.” This analysis suspects that the relatively new American XLUUV (Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) Orca program represents a “system capable of creating a local nuclear apocalypse” [системе, способной устроить локальный ядерный апокалипсис]. Although the article admits that the stated objectives of the American program are ISR, mine-countermeasures and transporting equipment, it is said that Russian experts are dubious of these claims. They apparently think that the timing of the “activation” of the Orca program is likely related to the American discovery of the Status-6 program, and so the U.S. system might well be an effort “to influence the strategic balance of power between Russia and NATO.”

Such thinking might prompt Russian strategists to consider the pointlessness of accelerating the nuclear arms race once again. Indeed, at least one of the Russian analyses cited above does indeed seem attuned to that sad reality: “… there is no point in such weapons. Therefore, we will continue to frighten Americans with Soviet skeletons, and they will pretend that they are frightened. The main thing: …funding is allocated …” [… смысла в таком оружии нет никакого. Поэтому мы и дальше будем пугать американцев советскими скелетами, а они будут делать вид, что испугались. Главное: … финансирование выделено…]

To be sure, there are many interests in both countries that stand to benefit from the new Cold War. The military-industrial complex, which President Dwight Eisenhower first drew attention to in his Farewell Address of January 1961, has surely noted that countering Russia (and China) makes for substantially greater (and more stable) profits than fighting terrorism. The ever more hawkish Left—inflamed by the humiliation of losing the White House to a political novice—can drape itself in the American flag and claim that they are “more patriotic” by touting the “full spectrum” Russian threat. The Right can hardly resist this call to return to the “good old days” when Ronald Reagan governed and the country agreed its greatest foe was the Kremlin. But America (and Russia) will actually be significantly less prosperous and much less secure as a result of these parochial and puerile machinations, especially in so far as they encourage the Stranglovian hallucinations of defense planners in both Moscow and Washington, DC.

Lyle J. Goldstein is Professor of Strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. You can reach him at goldstel@usnwc.edu. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.

Media: Wikipedia

Babylon the Great Modernizes Her Nuclear Arsenal (Revelation 16)

Nuclear weapons get small boost in budget deal

Aaron Mehta

At the Reagan National Defense Forum, Aaron Mehta gets an update on the NNSA’s work to modernize America’s nuclear stockpile.

WASHINGTON — Nuclear weapons received a small boost in a new spending deal passed by Congress, with lawmakers largely leaving the agency in charge of America’s warheads alone.

Nuclear weapons programs under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s purview came in at $12.457 billion, a small bump from the $12.408 billion requested for that account in the president’s budget request. That figure represents an increase of $1.347 billion from fiscal 2019 levels.

Overall, NNSA’s budget increased by $219 million over the president’s budget request. The plus-up should help the agency with bills caused by the two-month continuing resolution, which hit at a time NNSA is attempting to balance priorities: fixing aged infrastructure and fulfilling a number of warhead modernization programs.

Notably, the W87-1 program, which seeks to modernize the warheads used for America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, received $112 million — but only 75 percent of that funding can be accessed by the agency until a report on the program arrives on Capitol Hill, and specifically addresses “all major design decisions that have been made or that remain open and a description and explanation of the cost trade-offs for each decision or potential decision including surety architecture, technologies, and potential component re-use,” according to the spending deal.

This comes just days after a top NNSA official told reporters that the W87-1 program may go through design changes, including dropping planned features to defray costs for the B61-12 and W88 Alteration 370 warheads, which have been forced over-budget by problems with commercially built parts.

The bill also directs $5.6 million to stand up a new focus inside NNSA’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation office in order to contribute to the Pentagon’s ongoing analysis of alternatives for a new sea-launched cruise missile. That weapon, first proposed in the Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018, is expected to use a modification of the W80 warhead.

Within 90 days of the bill becoming law, NNSA is supposed to brief appropriators in both chambers on the status of that analysis of alternatives, and what options are under consideration.

And within 180 days, NNSA must deliver a report on the estimated cost and schedule of such a weapon, as well how it will impact existing work.

On the Pentagon side, funding for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which will replace the Minuteman III ICBM, was cut from $570.37 million in the president’s request to $557.49 million; however, that cut was largely due to reductions to the technology contract provided to Boeing, which was ended early.

Funding for the B-21 bomber program was also cut by $21.4 million from the president’s requested figure.

Meanwhile, the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate on Tuesday and is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump before the end of the week, includes language making the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment responsible for nuclear command and control, which had previously been under the chief information ifficer’s portfolio.

The NDAA also does not include language, initially sought by House Democrats, that would bar the deployment of the W76-2, a low-yield warhead for placement on submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Israel Plans for Offensive Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Smoke rises after Israel carried out air strikes over Gaza City, Gaza on 12 November 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

Israel official: Military offensive only way to end Palestinian resistance in Gaza

December 16, 2019 at 9:50 am

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Avi Dichter believes that a military offensive is the only way to end Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza, Quds Press reported yesterday.

Dichter, who is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, former minister of internal security and former head of Shin Bet, said that Israel should carry out a military operation in Gaza similar to the one carried out in the occupied West Bank in 2002.

On 29 March 2002, late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the start of the “Defensive Shield Operation” which ended on 3 May. It was aimed at ending the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

The Israeli army mobilised 30,000 troops for the operation, in which it used tanks, helicopters and attack fighters. Up to 240 Palestinians were killed, according to B’Tselem, and over 1,500 others were wounded as the Israeli army invaded most of the West Bank cities.

In November, Dichter told reporters that “Israel’s political and military leadership need to decide at a certain point to launch a campaign that will destroy the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.”

At least 300 Iranians killed by the Iranian Horn (Daniel 8:4)

Amnesty International: At least 300 Iranians killed in November protests

By Laura Kelly

December 16, 2019 – 01:53 PM EST

At least 304 people were killed and thousands injured during four days of popular protests that swept Iran last month, according to new figures published Monday by the human rights group Amnesty International.

The number of people killed is higher than the group’s previous estimate last month of at least 208 deaths during the protests in November.

The protests were first triggered by a sharp rise in fuel costs but grew to encompass mass grievances and opposition to the government of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The government in Tehran has accused the U.S. of involvement in the protests and labeled demonstrators as “thugs” and “rioters.”

Tehran has said it would come out with its own tally of the number killed but has yet to release a number.

Amnesty International said it has conducted “dozens” of interviews with people inside Iran to help document the number of those killed and collect descriptions of Iran’s crackdown, including regarding forced disappearances, arrests, torture and other ill-treatment.

“Harrowing testimony from eyewitnesses suggests that, almost immediately after the Iranian authorities massacred hundreds of those participating in nationwide protests, they went on to orchestrate a wide-scale clampdown designed to instill fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened,” Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

The organization said that verified video footage and witness testimony shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose a risk. The organization said the majority of the deaths they recorded are from gunshot wounds to the head, heart, neck and other vital organs, an indication that security forces were shooting to kill.

The U.S. has said that at least 7,000 Iranians have been arrested, a number echoed by a spokesman for Iran’s parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini. Iranian state-media has reported at least 1,000 arrests but has not updated the number since last month.

Among those arrested are believed to be journalists, human rights activists, students and teenagers as young as 15 years old. In addition to arresting people at home and work, Amnesty International said, Iranians who were injured participating in protests are being rounded up by security forces from hospitals.

“The authorities have an obligation to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment. Given the systematic use of torture in Iran, it is crucial that the authorities provide UN officials, mandate holders, and other relevant experts immediate access to detention centres and prisons to conduct fact-finding investigations,” said Luther. “Without urgent international pressure thousands will remain at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.”

The State Department has said it has received more than 30,000 communications from Iranians documenting Tehran’s crackdown on the protests following resumption of internet services that had been shut down in a media blackout in the early days of the protests.

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook said earlier this month that the State Department believes that “the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began.”

Iraq warns against ‘escalation’ after strikes on US interests

Iraq warns against ‘escalation’ after strikes on US interests

BAGHDAD — Baghdad cautioned on Monday against “an escalation” after a flurry of attacks on US interests in Iraq prompted Washington to warn of a “decisive” response against Iran.

Tehran wields growing influence in Iraq, particularly through armed factions.

Since October 28, ten rocket attacks have targeted areas where US soldiers and diplomats are stationed.

They have not been claimed, but the United States has blamed Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary groups.

On Monday, US defence secretary Mark Esper “expressed his concern” over the strikes in a telephone call with outgoing prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, according to a statement from the premier’s office.

In response, Abdel Mahdi “called on everyone to spare no effort to prevent an escalation that will threaten all parties”, the statement added.

“Unilateral decisions will trigger negative reactions that will make it more difficult to control the situation and will threaten Iraq’s security, sovereignty and independence,” he said.

Abdel Mahdi, a close ally of Iran who also enjoyed cordial relations with the US, resigned in early December after the two months of unprecedented demonstrations in the capital and Shiite-majority south in which around 460 people have died.

Negotiations are under way to name his successor.

“If the Iraqi government or state weakens, this will exacerbate escalation and chaos,” Abdel Mahdi told Esper, according to the statement.

Iran has gained overwhelming influence in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion brought down Saddam Hussein.

A US source recently told AFP that pro-Iran factions in Iraq were now considered a more significant threat to American soldiers than Daesh.

“Abdel Mahdi fears that an American response to the strikes… could turn into clashes on Iraqi soil,” a senior Iraqi official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The attacks have killed one Iraqi soldier and left others wounded as well as causing material damage in the vicinity of the US embassy in Baghdad’s ultra-secure Green Zone.

The US has recently reinforced its security at the embassy, according to an Iraqi security source, who said “a convoy of 15 American vehicles each transporting armoured trucks and weapons entered the Green Zone”.

Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Iran’s leaders “that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response”.

US officials say they are considering sending 5,000 to 7,000 troops to the region to counter Iran, although Esper on Friday again denied a report that a 14,000-strong deployment was under discussion.