Don’t Forget About the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Don’t forget about earthquakes, feds tell city

Although New York’s modern skyscrapers are less likely to be damaged in an earthquake than shorter structures, a new study suggests the East Coast is more vulnerable than previously thought. The new findings will help alter building codes.

By Mark Fahey

July 18, 2014 10:03 a.m.

The 2014 maps were created with input from hundreds of experts from across the country and are based on much stronger data than the 2008 maps, said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. The bottom line for the nation’s largest city is that the area is at a slightly lower risk for the types of slow-shaking earthquakes that are especially damaging to tall spires of which New York has more than most places, but the city is still at high risk due to its population density and aging structures, said Mr. Petersen.

“Many of the overall patterns are the same in this map as in previous maps,” said Mr. Petersen. “There are large uncertainties in seismic hazards in the eastern United States. [New York City] has a lot of exposure and some vulnerability, but people forget about earthquakes because you don’t see damage from ground shaking happening very often.”

Just because they’re infrequent doesn’t mean that large and potentially disastrous earthquakes can’t occur in the area. The new maps put the largest expected magnitude at 8, significantly higher than the 2008 peak of 7.7 on a logarithmic scale.The scientific understanding of East Coast earthquakes has expanded in recent years thanks to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia in 2011 that was felt by tens of millions of people across the eastern U.S. New data compiled by the nuclear power industry has also helped experts understand quakes.

Oddly enough, it’s not the modern tall towers that are most at risk. Those buildings become like inverted pendulums in the high frequency shakes that are more common on the East Coast than in the West. But the city’s old eight- and 10-story masonry structures could suffer in a large quake, said Mr. Lerner-Lam. Engineers use maps like those released on Thursday to evaluate the minimum structural requirements at building sites, he said. The risk of an earthquake has to be determined over the building’s life span, not year-to-year.

“If a structure is going to exist for 100 years, frankly, it’s more than likely it’s going to see an earthquake over that time,” said Mr. Lerner-Lam. “You have to design for that event.”

The new USGS maps will feed into the city’s building-code review process, said a spokesman for the New York City Department of Buildings. Design provisions based on the maps are incorporated into a standard by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which is then adopted by the International Building Code and local jurisdictions like New York City. New York’s current provisions are based on the 2010 standards, but a new edition based on the just-released 2014 maps is due around 2016, he said.

“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council, in a statement.

The seismic hazard model also feeds into risk assessment and insurance policies, according to Nilesh Shome, senior director of Risk Management Solutions, the largest insurance modeler in the industry. The new maps will help the insurance industry as a whole price earthquake insurance and manage catastrophic risk, said Mr. Shome. The industry collects more than $2.5 billion in premiums for earthquake insurance each year and underwrites more than $10 trillion in building risk, he said.

“People forget about history, that earthquakes have occurred in these regions in the past, and that they will occur in the future,” said Mr. Petersen. “They don’t occur very often, but the consequences and the costs can be high.”

Approaching Nuclear Annihilation (Revelation 16)

‘Prospects for survival are dim’ — Noam Chomsky’s warning about nuclear weapons

In an exclusive Q&A with the Morning Star, world-renowned philosopher NOAM CHOMSKY warns of the danger posed by nuclear weapons

CHRIS MENONSunday, April 5, 2020

Photo: Andrew Rusk / Creative Commons

HOW great a threat to humanity is a nuclear war? I’m assuming it is greater than ever, as confirmed by the Doomsday Clock moving closer to midnight?

Noam Chomsky (NC): It moved closer to midnight than it’s been since its first setting in 1947. The threat of nuclear war is one reason.

In August, President Trump dismantled the Reagan-Gorbachev INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty, and immediately tested weapons that violate the treaty.

He has indicated that he may not sign the new Start [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty], which essentially terminates the arms-control regime that has significantly lessened the dire threat of nuclear war.

Diplomacy, the only hope, has increasingly been sidelined in favour of provocation and force.

Unless this disastrous course is reversed, not just on the part of the world-dominant power, prospects for survival are dim.

How do you account for the unwillingness of the US and its allies to support international efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons, with the aim of abolishing them, via the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), for instance?

NC: Along with all other states with nuclear arsenals, the leadership ranks power above survival.

What would you say to those who argue Russia could make the first move?

NC: Or China, or India, or Israel — in all cases act to reduce the likelihood. That applies to ourselves, of course.

If re-elected, how likely is Donald Trump to further escalate the nuclear arms race by failing to renew the New Start treaty with Russia in 2021?

NC: He has called it a “bad deal,” but that’s just his term for any treaty that he can’t claim for himself. It’s uncertain, but there is very little time left for negotiations.

What should concerned citizens around the world be doing to try and encourage their governments to eradicate nuclear weapons?

NC: Something like the major popular campaigns of earlier years to reduce the terrible threats and to rid us of this curse.

Two Senators Idiotic Notion to Stop Iran (Daniel 7)

Two Senators Have a Solution for Deterring Iran

April 3, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: IranNuclearSanctionsWarLegislation

This proposed deal would also guarantee a supply of nuclear fuel for all of Iran’s nuclear reactors and those in other Middle East countries that have been built to generate electricity.

by Peter Huessy

New developments make it imperative for Europe to understand that the Iranian nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been an Iranian con-job designed to advance, not derail, the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program. As part of this con, Iran has sought to persuade the West, especially the United States, to end economic sanctions in return for promises of Iranian good behavior.

What then are the new dangerous developments that make it imperative to find a new nuclear deal and jettison the JCPOA now?

First, Iran’s attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities were facilitated by sophisticated guidance technology that gives Iran a new and highly accurate missile and drone capability.

Second, the European partners in the JCPOA have given Iran unlimited time to come back into compliance with the nuclear agreement, despite massive, deliberate and dangerous Iranian violations of existing JCPOA terms. In short, the three European partners to the JCPOA (Britain, France, Germany) have simply caved to Iranian blackmail that will give Iran more time to continue to build a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Third, evidence recently revealed by David Albright’s IISS illustrates Iran deliberately falsified material supplied to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) in order to hide Iran’s previous nuclear weapons work.

And the IAEA, which issues quarterly updates on Iran’s atomic program, issued an unprecedented separate March 3 report noting Iran’s “lack of cooperation and failure to provide access” to three critical nuclear sites while stockpiling an estimated one ton of enriched uranium sufficient to make one nuclear warhead, say analysts. One diplomat described the report as an unmistakable message from the IAEA to Iran: “There is a new sheriff in town.”

Fourth, Iran is now working to produce military equipment inside Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, a capability that significantly reduces the cost and time required to transport weapons overland from Iran. This Iranian strategy, unless challenged, adds to Iran’s already robust missile and weapons threats, and could dramatically increase Iran’s military influence in the region along with that of their terror proxies.

Fifth, the United Nations arms embargo on Iran expires in October 2020. With Iran’s already formidable missile inventory and rocket technology, the prospect of no limits on arms that Iran can acquire makes it virtually inevitable that Tehran will create even more terrorist mayhem. Worse yet, once the embargo ends, China and Russia are lined up to sell weapons to Iran, including more advanced missiles.

To counter these dangers, two American senators and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Menendez of (D-N.J.)—have introduced legislation in the Senate to completely eliminate the JCPOA. They would replace it with a new nuclear agreement.

Encouraged by the Trump administration to seek such a new agreement, especially if it is in parallel to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comprehensive plan for deterring Iran and changing the Iranian regime’s behavior. Both senators also discussed the new legislation with European leaders at a recent Munich security conference.

The key element of the new deal the senators propose is that it would prohibit all uranium enrichment not only by Iran but also by other Middle East countries, hopefully putting a lid on regional nuclear weapons proliferation that has worried proliferation experts. The proposed deal would also guarantee a supply of nuclear fuel for all of Iran’s nuclear reactors and those in other Middle East countries that have been built to generate electricity.

Graham noted that in addition to banning all enrichment by Iran—opposite to the JCPOA guarantee of an Iranian enrichment capability—Iran’s missile capability would be significantly curtailed by expanding elements of the current UN arms embargo. Also envisioned is a complementary agreement that Graham explained would be designed to end Iran’s support of terrorism and the proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. The ban would also apply to Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Graham’s legislation highlights the growing realization by senators that Iran never gave up its original nuclear weapons work, hid its nuclear weapons work from the IAEA, and serially violated the JCPOA as part of Iran’s goal to export its totalitarian version of an Islamic revolution.

Thus, concluded Graham, the Euro III has every incentive to end the existing nuclear agreement with Iran, replace it with a new deal, and only then curtail the American and UN economic sanctions against Iran. After all, it is European cities that Iran would soon be targeting with nuclear-armed missiles, not just those in the Middle East.

Some analysts pushed back against Graham’s move. They explained Europe’s reluctance to confront Iran about its nuclear ambitions was due to the very-real Iranian threat to disrupt Middle East oil supplies on which Europe heavily depends. But, Graham countered, the current JCPOA foolishly allows Iran’s already growing military power to add nuclear weaponry. That would give Iran not less but even more leverage over the Europeans as they could be even more easily coerced into accepting Iranian political and economic demands.

What are the chances the senators’ proposed deal might become a reality? The prospects are good. The plan appeals to a wide spectrum of senators because it does not simply prohibit Iran from enriching uranium. It also addresses wider Middle East proliferation challenges beyond Iran that have been of considerable concern to Congress. Similarly, it should appeal to a number of nations in the UN that are weary of silently enduring Iran’s continuous aggression. And most importantly, Graham’s plan puts an end to Iran’s nuclear program before relief from economic sanctions can be considered.

In summary, there are many positive attributes of the deal the two senators propose, including support from both political parties in the Senate and the Trump administration.

All this might transform Graham’s proposal from a “nice idea” into a “real deal.”

Peter Huessy is the director of Strategic Deterrent Studies for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies at the Air Force Association.

Image: Reuters

India’s potent nuclear triad (Revelation 8 )

The Indian Navy’s Potent Conventional Submarine Capability

Apr 1, 2020,

India is currently planning a fleet of nuclear powered submarines. But unlike other nuclear navies, India will not go all-nuclear. Instead they they will be complemented by 6 locally-built Kalvari Class conventionally powered boats and 6 of a follow-on Project-75I type. These conventional diesel-electric boats will be an important pillar of India’s submarine capability.

The Kalvari Class are an Indian Navy specific version of the French Scorpène design. Currently 2 are in service, 2 more are on trials and 2 are under construction. Together with the Project-75I type they will replace the ageing Shishumar class (German Type-209) and Sindhughosh class (Russian Kilo). The main capability jump for Project-75I will be Air Independent Power (AIP). This will allow the submarines to remain submerged for longer periods. The design of the Project-75I has not been selected yet. Potential overseas partners include German, French, South Korean, Spanish and Italian firms.

But the new submarine building projects will not deliver submarines as quickly as some in the Navy would hope. Russia may be hoping to capitalize on the situation by offering more refurbished Kilo Class submarines. This would see 6 of the Indian Kilos serving longer to bridge the gap. Two of the original Kilos are already out of service; INS Sindhurakshak was lost in an accident in Mumbai harbor in 2013 and INS Sindhuvir was transferred to Myanmar last year, becoming their first submarine. The deal, reported in local media, would see 3 Kilos supplied as well as to life-extension upgrades on 3 of India’s existing Kilo fleet.

A Russian Kilo Class Submarine like the 3 [+]

Russian Ministry of Defense

Russia was once India’s main source of submarines. It lost some ground to Germany in the 1980s when 4 Type-209 Shishumar Class submarines were acquired. And the next order went to France who sold India the Scorpène design.

The new proposal may take some pressure off this situation, buying time. But the Russian boats themselves are not fresh hulls. The refits, details of which were not reported, would likely keep them viable. But they cannot be thought of as truly modern submarines.

One important capability which the Kilos provide India is their submarine launched cruise missiles. They are equipped with the Russian supplied 3M-14E Club-S missile which is roughly similar to the American Tomahawk. It is shorter ranged however, being limited to under 200 miles.

Russia is still in the picture either way though as it is helping India with its indigenous nuclear submarine program. And the Kilo deal may make the Russian entry for Project-75I look more attractive. So the 2030s could see Russia return to its premier position as India’s external submarine partner. Russia has yet to prove modern AIP however.

Iran is using the coronavirus crisis to bolster its nuclear program

Is Iran using the coronavirus crisis to bolster its nuclear program?

Deutsche WelleApril 4, 2020

Iran is currently facing two crises. Sanctions have cut the country off from global markets, which has brought the economy to its knees. Iran is also dealing with an acute public health catastrophe as the coronavirus epidemic in the country continues to spread.

Some experts predict that COVID-19 has the potential to kill as many as 3.5 million people in Iran.

Despite these extreme circumstances, Tehran is continuing to push ahead on its nuclear program.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) recently announced that it is developing more advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium far beyond the level allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In May 2018, the United States backed out of the agreement and reinstated economic sanctions against Iran and its trading partners. In response, Iran said it would no longer adhere to the limitations on nuclear development in the deal, putting pressure on the other signatories by ramping up nuclear development.

Washington’s sanctions have hampered Tehran’s ability to import necessary goods, including medical devices. Banks are unwilling to finance any trade-related transactions with Iran over fear of US-imposed fines.

To set up a backdoor financing mechanism allowing European firms to do business with Iran, and dodge US sanctions, France, Germany and the UK established INSTEX, or Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges. On Tuesday, INSTEX was implemented for the first time to facilitate the export of medical devices to Iran from Europe.

Using coronavirus to bolster nuclear program?

As foreign aid arrives to help Iranians suffering from COVID-19, there are indications that the Islamic Republic has started using the coronavirus crisis as a means to justify its development of nuclear fuel.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEOI, said the agency is using gamma rays to disinfect masks, gloves and other medical equipment, and those gamma rays can only be produced in nuclear reactors.

However, former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) advisor and Iranian physicist Behrooz Bayat, said that disinfecting medical devices is not a valid reason for Iran to carry on with the nuclear program.

“While it is true that gamma radiation can be used to sterilize medical masks and gloves, the extent to which their use is effective in directly combating COVID-19 is questionable,” said Bayat.

Salehi’s strategy is to cast the regime’s nuclear program in a favorable light,” he added.

At the same time, Salehi knows that the Iranian public’s interest in the nuclear program is dwindling. Tehran continues to insist it is only interested in the civilian application of nuclear technology.

“In principle, faster centrifuges do not contradict civilian use, but they do violate the international nuclear agreement,” said Bayat.

Iran’s ‘covert’ nuclear threat

The JCPOA promised sanctions relief in exchange for Iran capping its uranium enrichment at a lower level and allowing for international inspections to verify it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Signed in 2015 by Germany and the five permanent powers in the UN Security Council, the deal was intended to ensure that Iran would not be able to develop nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. In return, easing sanctions would pave the way for Iran’s return to the global economy.

One year after the US unilaterally terminated the agreement in 2018, and reinstated economic sanctions against Iran and its trading partners, Tehran announced that it would partially withdraw from the agreement. In the absence of economic benefits promised in 2015, Tehran’s strategy is to apply pressure on other signatories.

“The Iranian nuclear program was designed as a deterrent. The regime now lacks the means to counter the US’ breach of treaty obligations,” said Bayat. According to the physicist, the acceleration of the program through the modernization of centrifuge facilities could also be understood as a “covert threat to pursue development of an atom bomb.”

Faster centrifuges would make Iran’s uranium enrichment process faster and more effective and shorten the time that Iran needs to produce weapons-grade uranium.

According to the IAEA, Iran has boosted its stock of enriched uranium

Little cooperation

According to the latest International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) report, the country has already tripled its total stock of low-enriched uranium, a precursor to highly enriched uranium, from 372.3 kilograms in November of last year, to 1020.9 kilograms on February 19.

This far exceeds the 300-kilogram (660 pound) limit set in the JCPOA. Experts say this puts the country in a position to produce enough uranium to develop nuclear weapons.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi called on Iran to resume full cooperation after Tehran denied inspectors access to two installations in January, according to the IAEA’s latest report. Iranian authorities declared that they were not obliged provide information.

“We have answered the IAEA’s questions,” the Iranian IAEA ambassador said on March 20, adding that Iran would continue to cooperate intensively with the IAEA. However, the ambassador said Iran would not accept accusations of non-compliance made in tandem with the US and Israel.

In a Pandemic, Nukes Look Different

In a Pandemic, The Bomb Looks Different

03.04.2020 – United States of America – Pressenza London

Image by

Everything looks different through the lens of Covid-19.

by Vicki Elson and Timmon Wallis.*

If we can suddenly mobilize trillions of dollars to prop up the economy, why can’t we mobilize trillions to provide better food, shelter, and health care for our children? If we can stop polluting China’s air and Venice’s canals during a lockdown, why can’t we make that more normal?

If we can work so hard to cooperate globally to slow the pandemic and safeguard our future, then why on earth would we still possess nuclear weapons that can obliterate everything and everyone forever?

Pandemics, climate, inequality, nuclear weapons – of the four great problems threatening our very existence, one is very easy to solve, and this might just be the moment to cross it off the list.

To end the threat of nuclear weapons wiping us out by accident or by design, all we have to do is take the damn things apart.

Just take the warheads off their delivery systems: missiles, submarines, and airplanes. That’s it.

There’s nothing technical to figure out – the US and Russia have already dismantled 40,000 nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. But there are still nearly 14,000 of them, and these days they’re more accurate, swifter, and deadlier than ever.

They’re pointed at you and me, cruising around under the oceans, poised in silos, flying around on airplanes, or stockpiled. They’re costing an absolute fortune, and they’re keeping some of our best scientists too busy to work on more life-sustaining projects.

All that’s needed to end this 75-year-old nightmare is the political will. The groundwork for the disarmament process is already in place. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Ban Treaty) lays out a framework for fair, well-coordinated, verifiable disarmament by all countries.

The rest of the world is outraged that nine nuclear-armed nations are holding the whole planet hostage.

Unlike previous treaties written (and repeatedly sidelined) by the offending nuclear nations, the Nuclear Ban Treaty was crafted by the rest of the world. It closes legal loopholes in prior treaties. Like chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are now comprehensively banned under international law. The treaty makes everything to do with nuclear weapons illegal – even financing them, even threatening to use them.

The language of the Nuclear Ban Treaty was agreed by 122 (non-nuclear) countries at the United Nations. It has already been signed by 81 countries, ratified by 36 – and counting. It’s the best breakthrough you’ve never heard of.

Here in the nation that invented nuclear weapons (and has actually used them to slaughter civilians), humanitarian concerns are chipping away at decades of propaganda. You might want to ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor Norton HR 2419, which would require the USA to sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty and begin carefully negotiating disarmament with the rest of the world. Then, once the treaty is ratified, the bill requires us to shift the wasted money – and the squandered scientific talent – to a Green New Deal that addresses both climate and inequality. It can work, but not if we wait too much longer.

The Nuclear Ban Treaty won the Nobel Peace Prize for the team of young activists who facilitated it, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In Oslo, the Prize was accepted by ICAN’s director, Beatrice Fihn, and Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who has campaigned for the end of the nuclear era since she crawled out of the rubble at age 13.

The bomb that wiped out Setsuko’s family, classmates, and city was small by today’s standards. Just one of the 14,000 modern bombs could cause unimaginable suffering and permanent destruction of people, ecosystems, infrastructure, and culture. A small, regional nuclear war (for example, between India and Pakistan) could kick enough soot into the atmosphere to block the sun, kill crops, and starve as many as 2 billion people.

“But,” many Americans ask, “if we disarm – won’t we be vulnerable to being attacked and overrun by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran?”

That’s a good question. But think about it: there are 185 non-nuclear-armed countries right now, and nobody’s overrunning them. Nobody’s nuking them, because nuke-owners know that nuking is suicide, even omnicide. Nuclear detonation would harm everyone: the nuker, the nukee, and innocent bystanders downwind — for generations, long after the original dispute is forgotten.

Nuclear “deterrence” is a concept that does not hold up to scrutiny. But even if this colossally lethal game of Chicken did make sense, would it be worth the risk? Nukes are not like conventional weapons – they are end-of-the-world machines.

Meanwhile, the danger of nuclear annihilation is heightened during a pandemic.

If you think it’s scary that your local health care providers might all get sick, what if the coronavirus hits the crew of a nuclear silo? Or a submarine?

Nuclear accidents happen all the time, and it’s pure luck that none have resulted in detonation so far. Nuclear war can be started by human error, mechanical malfunction, miscommunication, terrorist sabotage, or even a computer glitch. Over the years, we’ve had a dozen close calls besides the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the added chaos of a pandemic, the risk increases.

Anything that stresses our species, whether it’s a crisis of disease, water, food, politics, or weather, increases the likelihood of war, which can escalate until someone launches nuclear weapons on purpose. And someone else retaliates. Repeat until Game Over.

So why haven’t we disarmed already? It’s the same problem that Greta Thunberg points out about fossil fuels: “Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity for a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.” You can follow the corporate money to political campaigns and the policies that ensue, just like with so many other issues that endanger, impoverish, and divide us.

This moment is a profound moral test for everyone.

This pandemic is laying bare our deepest values. Some are rising to the occasion with beautiful neighborly support and heroic action, from hospital staff to grocers. And some are descending to new depths of depravity, like those politicians who seem to have profited from insider knowledge of the coming crash, while publicly downplaying the danger.

We calculate that the USA is spending about $90 billion per year on nuclear weapons whose only function is annihilation. (One basic ventilator costs about $20,000. One Habitat for Humanity home costs about $90,000. One school lunch costs about $2.63.)

Our tolerance of nuclear weapons is the mother of all moral and humanitarian outrages. Nukes are the ultimate expression of dominance and oppression. They disproportionately affect women, the poor, the very young, and the unborn. The one time we actually used them against two Japanese cities, 75 years ago, was, in retrospect, a racist act. What kind of people do we want to be?

Imagine: The pandemic wakes us up to our shared fate.

We elect a sensible, peace-promoting President and Congress. Americans demand that our leaders sign and ratify the Nuclear Ban Treaty and work toward ratification. We realize that we can pay for a whole lot of solar panels and windmills – or a whole lot of ventilators and N95 respirators — for what we’re currently wasting on nuclear wars that, in Ronald Reagan’s words, “cannot be won and must never be fought.” We work together and support all nations in building sustainable systems.

We use the lessons we’re learning now to accelerate solutions to other shared crises. We realize that instead of an unfathomably bloated military budget, we can have a generous allocation of tax money that more than meets basic human needs for housing, nutrition, health care, and education. Even the wealthy benefit from a safer, healthier planet.

We continue to evolve. We get friendlier and more sensible, ready to face whatever challenge is next.

This pandemic’s silver lining, if there is one, might be that we humans continue to cooperate on a massive scale once it’s over.

The pandemic is showing us that anything is possible, good or bad, even that which seemed unthinkable just a short while ago. We’re working together globally to find solutions. We’re shaming those who behave selfishly. We’re learning fast. We’re being terrifically creative and altruistic.

It’s never been clearer: What happens in one country happens to everyone. It’s not “Us vs. Them.” It’s “Us vs. Disaster.” We can pull together, and we must.

*Vicki Elson MA and Timmon Wallis PhD are ICAN partners and founders of  NuclearBan.US, TreatyAwareness.US, and Wallis is the author of Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal and Disarming the Nuclear Argument: The Truth About Nuclear Weapons.

The Antichrist’s Exploitation of Covid-19

Extremist exploitation of Covid-19

Desperation and fear are wellsprings for extremist recruiting, not least in the Arab world, with radical Islamic groups jockeying to benefit from the Covid-19 pandemic

Ahmed Kamel Al-Beheiri , Sunday 5 Apr 2020

Natural disasters and epidemics bring out many people’s tendency to search for divine explanations and cures. The phenomenon creates ideal soil for extremist religious groups which leap upon the opportunity to exploit such crises for recruitment, mobilisation and disseminating their ideologies. The phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the Third World, and the Arab region above all, where fundamentalist groups proliferate and general educational levels are low. As the numbers of Covid-19 infections and victims rise in the Middle East and elsewhere, the region has seen a growth in both Sunni and Shia radical groups’ attempts to exploit the novel pandemic.

Many Islamist fundamentalist groups have attributed it to the wrath of God for straying from strictures, and issued calls for religious processions of penance and divine adoration (as have been seen in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan). Radical groups have also rejected the temporary closures of mosques, suspension of mass prayers and other such measures taken by Arab governments in order to prevent the spread of the virus. They even rejected the fatwas from major religious authorities sanctioning such measures, such as those issued by Al-Azhar and the International Federation of Muslim Scholars supporting the legality under Islamic law of suspending prayers and Friday sermons in mosques until the coronavirus epidemic is brought under control. Some extremist and fanatical preachers issued counter fatwas claiming that the suspension of prayers and sermons helped the spread of the virus, it being a manifestation of divine wrath for deviating from God’s Law that only struck non-believers. The counter fatwas have lured some believers into doing exactly the opposite of what government and health authorities advise.

  1. Shia leaders in the religious centres of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq have challenged the appeal by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shia religious authority in Iraq, to abide by the ban on mass prayers in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. The Iraqi cleric Qassim Al-Tai urged the faithful to continue to visit Shia shrines and hold mass prayers and Friday sermons in mosques. When asked by one of his followers whether to avoid visiting Shia shrines, he said: “The virus does not afflict the faithful.” Muqtada Al-Sadr, the influential leader of the Sadrist movement, also defied the ban on Friday prayers.Thousands of his followers assembled for prayers in Kufa Mosque after the government in Baghdad announced the ban.

Similar responses came from radical Sunni leaders. In response to the Egyptian government’s decision to suspend mass prayers until the virus is brought under control, Wagdi Ghoneim, a Salafi preacher close to the Muslim Brotherhood, announced: “I ask people to worship collectively in the streets in front of the mosques.” Salafi sheikhs in Alexandria issued similar calls. Some also advocated religious processions, a call supported by some Muslim Brotherhood leaders abroad as part of their bid to exploit the crisis, attract new followers and pressure ruling regimes.

The current exploitation of the Covid-19 crisis by radical Islamist groups (both Shia and Sunni) follows a historical pattern that sometimes culminates in the rise of extremist groups. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, emerged from the womb of the 1920s global economic crisis that struck in the aftermath of the Spanish flu pandemic (1919-1921). The terrorist Islamic Jihad organisation took off in the aftermath of the Arab defeat in the 1967 War which the organisation’s ideologues also attributed to deviation from the faith. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was quick to take advantage of the 1992 earthquake, creating relief committees in the syndicates it controlled and that served as a major vehicle for recruitment. Indeed, that crisis marked the beginning of the resurgence of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which exploited it for mobilisation and electoral purposes.

Because of the impetus that extremist religious trends and groups stand to gain from exploiting major crises of this sort, the urgency of focussing on fighting the spread of Covid-19 should not blind authorities in the Arab region or elsewhere to the need to monitor developments in that end of the political spectrum. In light of historical precedents, there is a possibility that some Salafi groups’ exploitation of the coronavirus crisis could precipitate an organisational and ideological shift giving rise to the emergence of new and possibly fiercer jihadist organisations or militias after the crisis passes.

*The writer is an expert on terrorism at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.