Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

The Nations Trample Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Islamic Jihad rises with Iranian-Syrian support | Sami Moubayed | MEO

BEIRUT – Israel carried out air strikes February 24 over Damascus, killing at least two people. The intended target, it seems, was Ziyad Nakhaleh, the 57-year-old head of the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.

Last November, the Israeli Defence Forces tried to assassinate Akram al-Ajouri, another leader of Islamic Jihad, striking at his home in the upmarket residential neighbourhood of West Mezzeh, also in Damascus.

Both men are part of Islamic Jihad’s leadership elected in September 2018. Five of them are based abroad, commuting between Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

Nakhaleh spent 14 years in Israeli prisons and, upon his release, was one of the co-founders of Islamic Jihad. He was appointed to its first Shura Council by founder Fathi Shaqaqi. He was also tasked with laying the groundwork for Saraya al-Quds, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, with which he remains a very prominent and influential figure, explaining why Israel wants him dead.

Nakhaleh played a critical role in the first intifada in 1987 and was arrested one year later and banished to southern Lebanon, where he lived until 1994. He moved to Beirut after the election of Hassan Nasrallah as secretary-general of Hezbollah, who was and remains a good friend of his, and finally to Damascus.

Unlike Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal, Nakhaleh did not voice opposition to the Syrians and refused to follow the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo after the 2012 election of Muhammad Morsi. In 2014, he played an important role in the Gaza ceasefire talks in Egypt. The same year he was placed on the US terrorist list with a $5 million bounty on his head.

Nakhaleh is on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s hit list, accused of being behind the latest escalation in Gaza. He has revived Islamic Jihad after seven years of slumber, restoring its previous aura on the Palestinian street and reviving its status as a strategic partner of Hamas, rather than a subordinate.

Diminishing Iranian influence in Gaza

Iran, rather than Syria, is the real patron of Islamic Jihad,” said Tareq Baconi, a Palestinian analyst at the International Crisis Group in Belgium. “Syria, however, is one of the few countries that allows the movement to be located above ground.”

That was done mainly to keep a Syrian back channel open with the Palestinian territories after relations with Hamas were suspended in 2012, when they packed up and left Syria, snuggling up instead to the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo and setting up base in Doha, which was actively pursuing regime change in Damascus.

Hamas bankrolled the armed opposition in the Yarmouk Camp, providing it with weapons and mines, and Meshaal raised the tricolour flag of the Syrian opposition, making rapprochement with Damascus virtually impossible.

The Iranians tried hard to mend relations between Hamas and Syria, after it became clear to them that Bashar al-Assad was going nowhere, as did Hezbollah. But the Syrian government demanded a complete break between Hamas and Qatar, along with the toppling of Khaled Meshal, refusing to restore any Hamas’ assets that they had seized.

When rapprochement failed, Iran and Hezbollah settled for a Damascus-Islamic jihad axis instead, one that would keep the so-called “Axis of the Resistance” intact to serve Iranian interests in the Arab world.

The money for Islamic Jihad would come from Iran but Islamic Jihad bases, training camps and senior leadership would be in Syria, upholding a long-held Palestinian tradition of waging war against Israel from “countries of the necklace” (duwal al-tawq) that surround Israel, namely Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

That made more sense after Hamas slipped out of Iranian control, as Iranian money stopped entering the Gaza Strip. Iranian patronage of Hamas dates to 1993 when its leadership was invited to open an office in Tehran after they opposed the Oslo Accords. By 2007, Iran was bankrolling them with $120 million per year, money that Iran no longer has after its resources were stretched thin by the Syrian conflict.

A win-win scenario

Islamic Jihad, with its new leadership, is less costly to fund and more politically rewarding, given Hamas’s collapsing powerbase in Gaza, after years of poor government marred by corruption, lack of basic services and soaring unemployment.

Additionally, Islamic Jihad is “more amenable to Iranian dictates than Hamas,” Baconi said. It is less willing to argue and more willing to accept orders with no questions asked. It will be using Iranian and Syrian support to stand in upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for this year, although the precise date has yet to be revealed.

When the Palestinians last voted in 2006, Hamas won 74 out of 132 seats in parliament, a majority it will have a hard time matching in 2020.

With support from Tehran and Damascus, however, Islamic Jihad might surprise everybody and perform well. Unlike Hamas, it carries no burden of poor governance and seems to be gaining new members by the day because of its resumed rocket attacks against Israel and its position on US President Donald Trump’s Deal of the Century.

5 Ways China Helped Create the Pakistani Nuclear Horn

5 Ways China Has Turned Pakistan Into a Military Monster

India should be worried.

As Pakistan’s relationship has soured with the United States in the past two decades, Pakistan’s armed forces have largely looked towards Chinese suppliers for equipment. While China has long supplied Pakistan’s armed forces, the relationship has deepened in recent years, with Pakistan making major purchases of top-of-the-line Chinese export equipment.

Here are some of the most powerful weapons China has sold or licensed to Pakistan.

1. Nuclear Weapons Program

The acquisition of nuclear weapons in the 1990s is considered to be one of the largest failings of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. But, it is widely said that China provided significant assistance to the Pakistani nuclear weapons program (in addition to the A.Q. Khan’s espionage). China is alleged to have provided missile components, warhead designs, and even highly-enriched uranium. The political motive behind this is clear, Pakistan acts as an effective foil against growing Indian regional ambitions. But it is clear that nuclear assistance is the most deadly example of Chinese/Pakistani defense cooperation.

2. JF-17 Fighter

The JF-17 fighter is the new premier multirole fighter of the Pakistan Air Force, supplanting the position previously held by American F-16Cs. Featuring integration with a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, including active radar air-to-air missiles and air-launched cruise missiles, the JF-17, while a “budget” aircraft brings a lot of modern capability and modern ergonomics for its cost. While it would probably lose a dogfight to Indian Su-30MKIs due to inferior thrust-to-weight ratio and turn rate, in the beyond visual range arena, the JF-17 could prove to be tough opponent, especially given the Indian aircraft are said to have issues locking on at range with their first-generation R-77 missiles.

 3. A-100 Multiple Rocket Launcher

Multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) are some of the deadliest artillery systems on the battlefield. Combat experience in the Donbass has proven that MRLs can wipe out entire units if they remain static and unprepared. The A-100 is one of the latest MRL systems, reaching operational capability around 2,000. The first units were sold to Pakistan by China around 2008, since then Pakistan has built facilities to indigenously produce rockets for the system. Long-range MRLs are fielded by both India and Pakistan, with Indians fielding the Soviet/Russian BM-30 Smerch MRL. Rocket artillery could incur massive casualties in rear areas in the opening stages of a conventional conflict, as such both MRL systems are considered to be key parts of conventional deterrence strategies for India and Pakistan.

4. VT-1A

The VT-1A, alternatively known as the Al-Khalid or MBT-2000 is one of the more capable tanks in the region. Designed as a joint project between Pakistan and China, the design was practically clean slate. Production tanks have thermal gunner’s sights, a panoramic commander’s sight, and a 125mm gun. While not up to the standard of modern Russian or Western tanks, the VT-1A is more than capable of combating the T-72Ms that form the bulk of the Indian tank forces. However, the more advanced T-90S may pose issues to the VT-1A. However, Pakistan is considering acquiring the VT-4, China’s further development of the VT-1A design.

 5. HQ-16

While the Pakistani military has long relied on the Pakistan Air Force for air defense, the Pakistan Army has acquired the Chinese HQ-16 medium-range surface to air missile (SAM) for the defense of its formations on the ground. A deep modernization of the Russian Buk SAM, the HQ-16 utilizes vertical launch and containerized missiles to enhance reaction times. HQ-16 batteries are also said to be highly mobile, allowing them to avoid artillery and SEAD/DEAD attacks. Pakistan is also in negotiations to buy the longer ranged Chinese HQ-9 system, a Chinese analog to the Russian S-300 long-range SAM.

Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

What will happen to the Antichrist’s men after one key leader’s death?

What will happen to Iraqi Shiite militias after one key leader’s death?

This won’t help U.S.-Iran tensions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stands on Feb. 11 next to a picture of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, top right, who led Iraq’s Shiite militia network. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The U.S. decision to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January inadvertently also caused the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the powerful and influential head of Kataib Hezbollah and de facto head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). While commentators have focused on Soleimani, the death of Muhandis has broad implications for Iraq’s Shiite militia network.

The killing of a major figure at the helm of the militia network for years, along with Soleimani, the network’s most important external patron, comes at a moment of weakness and uncertainty for Iran and its allies in Iraq. In recent months, Iraqi protesters have lamented the role of Iran’s proxies and the PMF in the brutal suppression of the civilian-led movement, which has strengthened their resolve to remove these groups from power.

How will Iran respond to Soleimani’s killing — and where will the escalation end?

The political uncertainty facing Iran-aligned groups was substantially compounded Jan. 3, when a U.S. drone targeted and killed Soleimani and Muhandis. Iran and its Iraqi allies no longer enjoy the aura of invincibility that for years has shaped their grip on the Iraqi political space.

Muhandis was a critical pillar in Iraq’s wide-ranging network of Iranian proxies and militias. His death throws Iran’s Iraqi proxy network into potential disarray, opening up new battles in Iraqi Shiite politics that could lead in several directions. Iraq is bracing itself for two immediate reverberations: a potentially violent showdown between rival Shiite militia groups looking to shape and exploit the post-Muhandis landscape; and a volatile political environment in which Iran and the United States may still come into direct conflict in the fallout over Soleimani’s assassination.

What are the PMF militias?

Over the past decade, Shiite militias in Iraq have expanded dramatically and have transitioned into formidable political movements. Iran mobilized these groups initially in 2003 to impede the U.S. reconstruction process and extend Iran’s regional reach. They also ensured that Iraq did not become a staging ground for overthrowing the regime in Iran.

Since the advent of the war on the Islamic State, Iran-aligned Shiite militia groups have enhanced their hold on the Iraqi state and the political system. This reflects the importance and effectiveness of Iranian patronage as well as the fragility of Iraq — and the security vacuum after the fall of the Iraqi army in 2014, when the Islamic State seized Mosul.

In response to this cataclysmic event, Iran’s proxies formed and led an 80,000- to 100,000-member umbrella militia organization — the PMF. The PMF has since become a constitutionally integrated component of the Iraqi armed forces. It won widespread acclaim for its battlefield heroics against the Islamic State and has subsumed Iraq’s conventional armed forces since its inception.

Here’s how airstrikes targeting Iranian-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq threaten post-ISIS stability

Iraqi officials describe Muhandis as Soleimani’s right-hand man and a formidable political operator. He was operationally integrated into Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) more than any of Iran’s other partners in Iraq. As head of the PMF and powerful militia group Kataib Hezbollah, Muhandis played a critical role in enhancing Iran’s influence over the Iraqi political system.

Iran will probably find it more difficult to manage and maintain this network of proxies and influencers in a complex political landscape, one that is also contested by other external powers. The political space in Iraq is highly congested — and difficult to navigate and manage when it becomes unstable. Soleimani’s constant shuttling between Baghdad and Tehran before his death, for example, was a response to the crisis Iran faced in Iraq, one that was precipitated by the anti-government reform protests.

Iran has tens of thousands of fighters under its command in Iraq, and the PMF remains a nascent institution. The sheer size of this network requires an operationally and politically experienced leader. For Iran, it may take years to find a viable replacement for Muhandis.

New turf battles may emerge

Iraq’s Shiite militias have been locked in intense rivalry for power and resources for decades and have been moving toward a major confrontation for some time. The coming months could see two major political forces come head-to-head: Iran-aligned groups that lead the PMF; and Muqtada al-Sadr, a cleric who leads Iraq’s most powerful sociopolitical movement and commands a militia force of tens of thousands known as the Mahdi Army, which fought fierce battles against Western forces, as well as against Iran’s proxies. The Sadrist movement came in first in Iraq’s 2018 national elections. Its foremost rival, the PMF, came in an astounding second on their electoral debut.

In Iraq, demonstrators demand change — and the government fights back

Sadr recently announced that he had “reactivated” the Mahdi Army — which was rebranded as the Peace Brigades to expand the movement’s support beyond its traditional base. The cleric is attempting to lead the effort to oust U.S. troops from Iraq. While this might seem to demonstrate his political alignment with Iran, it has more to do with his attempts to suppress the post-Soleimani opportunity for Iran’s direct proxies to expand their influence and power at his expense.

The battle to shape the post-Soleimani (and post-Muhandis) militia landscape between competing Shiite militia groups will complicate Iran’s attempts to repair the political and operational cracks in its proxy network. The militia network in Iraq has been critical to Iran’s capacity to exert unparalleled political influence over the past decade, and reflects years of investing immense energy and resources.

Competing interests could now undermine this influence, if not reverse it — and that could present an opportunity for the United States to strengthen its position in Iraq. Given Washington’s lack of a viable political strategy and its limited ground presence and influence in Iraq, this seems unlikely to materialize, however.

Sadr and his rivals recently struck a deal that saw the cleric withdraw his support for the protesters and back a forthcoming Iraqi government — effectively paving the way for the suppression of protesters by militias — but it’s a fragile deal that could quickly unravel.

The struggle for power among rival Shiite militia groups, meanwhile, may well cross over into vital U.S. strategic interests in Iraq, such as the war on the Islamic State or the presence of U.S. troops in the country. And Washington could still find itself entangled in a violent intra-Shiite contest in the not-so-distant future, especially one that brings key U.S. allies into the conflict or paves the way for an Iranian coup in Iraq — which will increase the prospect of a direct U.S.-Iran confrontation on Iraqi soil.

Ranj Alaaldin (@ranjalaaldin) is a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Doha and director of the Carnegie Corp.’s Proxy Wars Initiative (@pwinitiative).Sadr

Trump’s Nefarious Advisor is Questioned

Democrats press Pompeo over Trump’s ‘failure’ of an Iran policy

Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received a blunt assessment from Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran: It’s not working.

Congressional Democrats have been sharply critical of the administration’s shifting justification for its Jan. 3 drone strike against Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, arguing that Tehran immediately replaced Soleimani with his deputy and that the country is still enriching nuclear material. Their frustrations were on display as Pompeo appeared Friday for the committee hearing.

Weeks later, we’ve seen attacks that have injured more than 100 service members, the need to move thousands more personnel back to the region, a derailment in our relationship with Iraq, a setback in our fight against ISIS and Iraq pushing headlong toward a nuclear weapon,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

“You promised the American people that they would be safer and Iran would be deterred, so by your own metrics, this policy has been a failure.”

Iranian-backed militias have reportedly resumed attacks in the Middle East, specifically on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are stationed. And Iran was caught this month shipping anti-aircraft missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Though the U.S. and Iran appear to have pulled back from the brink of war, Congress has a chance to influence the ongoing tension, as the House is expected to vote soon to require that President Donald Trump seek congressional authorization before taking further military action against Iran, a measure the Senate passed on Feb. 13.

Those tensions have been steadily escalating since 2018, when Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers. The Trump administration reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part of its “maximum pressure campaign” on the Islamic republic.

Iran since has broke terms of the 2015 deal that limited its enrichment of uranium. During the hearing, Pompeo conceded Iran has more enriched uranium than when Trump took office.

Thursday’s hearing, full of partisan outrage, heated exchanges and interruptions, echoed the 2014 and 2015 Benghazi hearings in which Pompeo, as a member of Congress, rose to prominence. Early on, Rep. Gregory Meeks blasted Pompeo for agreeing to sit for only two hours when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat for 11 hours before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

“We had to move heaven and Earth to get you here for just two hours,” Meeks, D-N.Y., told Pompeo, who was scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference later in the day.

Pompeo and panel Republicans have argued the Dec. 27 killing of an American interpreter in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias and the Dec. 31 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad by supporters of an Iranian-backed militia were part of a pattern that would have escalated without Soleimani’s death.

“We might be having a different hearing on why [Trump] didn’t stop the deaths of more Americans,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, and the panel’s ranking member.

While Pompeo at least twice declined to discuss in an unclassified setting Iran’s actions in response to the strike, he claimed it had reduced the risk to U.S. personnel overseas and that U.S. sanctions have crippled Iran’s ability to fund Hezbollah.

“We’re willing and able to impose cost on our adversaries if they threaten or attack us,” Pompeo said. “I know that, sadly, some American troops were injured during Iran’s retaliatory ballistic missile attack on Al Asad air force base. The limited nature of Iran’s counterattack, however, indicates that Iran’s leadership is not eager to escalate a military confrontation. They know if they fight, they lose. That’s deterrence, it’s our policy.”

Americans appear to have some mixed views of Trump’s decision to take out Iran’s Quds Force commander. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in January found that 53 percent of Americans support it, but that 48 percent felt that the decision raised the chances of terrorism against U.S. citizens and 46 percent believed there was a greater likelihood of a war with Tehran.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a former CIA operative, was among Democrats who questioned Pompeo about the administration’s shifting explanations to justify the strike.

Though Pompeo said Jan. 10 he had specific information about an imminent threat to include attacks on U.S. embassies, he gave a classified briefing to Congress that ― according to Spanberger ― didn’t share that evidence. Nor did the administration repeat the claim in its legally mandated justification to Congress, received Jan. 31.

“When the administration was constrained by the law to tell the truth,” Spanberger said, “you abandon the talking points.”

Pompeo objected, saying there were “material misstatements” in Spanberger’s comments, but he was denied time to explain what they were. When asked later which embassies had been under threat, Pompeo said: “I’m never willing to disclose classified material.”

In another tense exchange, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., pressed Pompeo to apologize on behalf of the president for “trivializing” the traumatic brain injuries suffered by U.S. troops when Iran attacked Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. (Though the president initially said the injuries at Al Asad weren’t serious, the numbers of troops injured in the attack has grown to more than 109, as of the most recent count.)

Pompeo said the president hadn’t trivialized any injuries: “We take seriously every American service member’s life. It’s why we’ve taken the very policies in Iran that we have.”

Multiple Republicans complained about the tone of the hearing. When Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., called the proceedings an “embarrassment” because Pompeo was being cut off and interrupted, Engel interjected.

“What’s really an embarrassment is we can’t get more than two hours from the secretary of state,” Engel said.

India Tests Its Nuclear Triad (Revelation 8 )

ARMS CONTROL TODAY

March 2020

By Kelsey Davenport

India conducted two tests of a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in January. When deployed, the missile, known as the K-4, will significantly expand India’s second-strike capability.

India tests its K-4 missile from a submerged platform in January. The Indian Navy plans to deploy the 3,500-kilometer-range missile on Arihant-class submarines. (Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis/Getty Images)

The Jan. 19 and Jan. 25 tests of the K-4 were both conducted from submerged pontoons in the Bay of Bengal. The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation, which developed the missile, did not comment on either test, but Indian officials were quoted in news outlets describing the launches as successful.

The K-4 has an estimated range of 3,500 kilometers. Prior to the January tests, it had been launched successfully in 2016 from a submarine, but a subsequent test in 2017 failed. Conducting the January 2020 tests from a submerged pontoon could have been intended to prevent any damage to India’s ballistic missile submarines in the event of a failure.

India plans to deploy the K-4 on its domestically built Arihant-class ballistic missile submarines. Two of the submarines are complete, and New Delhi intends to build two or three more. The existing submarines will likely be able to carry four K-4s, but subsequent submarines could be expanded to fit eight launch tubes.

India’s deployed nuclear-capable SLBM, the K-15, has an estimated range of 700 kilometers. The K-15 was successfully tested from an Airhant submarine in 2018 and likely deployed shortly afterward, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in November 2018 that the country’s first ballistic missile submarine had completed its inaugural deterrence patrol. (See ACT, December 2018.) Airhant-class submarines can carry up to 12 K-15 missiles.

At the time, Modi said India was pursuing a second-strike capability in response to “those who indulge in nuclear blackmail.”

The K-15’s range would allow India to target parts of Pakistan, but New Delhi would need the longer-range K-4 to reach Islamabad and northern parts of Pakistan. The extended range of the K-4 would also allow India to reach more targets in China. Increasingly, India’s focus on developing and deploying longer-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles appears directed at countering China, not Pakistan.

Pakistan has referred to India’s pursuit of SLBMs as destabilizing, arguing that they are the first “ready-to-fire” missiles deployed in South Asia.

Indian and Pakistani nuclear warheads are largely believed to be de-mated, or stored separately from delivery systems. On a submarine, however, de-mating is not feasible, and the warheads are installed atop the ballistic missiles.

Antichrist suggests halt to protests, Friday prayers as part of coronavirus prevention

Iraqi Shia cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr (File)

Sadr suggests halt to protests, Friday prayers as part of coronavirus prevention

2020-02-28

SULAIMANI — Shia cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday (February 28) asked for a halt to the anti-government protests in Baghdad and the southern provinces and to Friday prayers in order to prevent an increase in coronavirus infections.

“Religious gatherings, such as the mass prayers on Fridays, visits and the like, may increase the health hazards (God knows best),” Sadr said in a tweet.

“Other gatherings such as demonstrations, sit-ins, stadiums, crowded markets, and the like, increase the pervasive disease that is almost classified as a pandemic,” he added.

Seven cases of the virus have been recorded in Iraq, all of whom are people who had traveled from Iran, which is experiencing a serious outbreak of the disease.

More than 500 people have been killed and 17,000 wounded since anti-government protests broke out in Baghdad and the southern provinces on October 1, as the security forces and militias cracked down on the demonstrations.

Sadr was initially supportive of the demonstrations and encouraged his supporters to camp out in the protest squares.

In recent weeks, Sadr withdrew that support as he sought to throw his weight behind Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

Some analysts have worried that the coronavirus outbreak will be used to accomplish what the violent crackdown could not.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. EBL