A Lack Of Vigilance Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant Guard

Story by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment

Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009

This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.

TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.

When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults.

The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said.

“In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said.

This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday.

Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director.

“A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault.

Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added.

Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage.

“It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi.

The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added.

“You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said.

Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents.

Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.”

“I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said.

Training concluded Thursday.

US-Iran tensions deepen divisions with Antichrist’s Men (Rev 13:18)

US-Iran tensions deepen divisions in Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi

ISTANBUL

Key anti-Daesh/ISIS actors in Iraq since 2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi and Shia militia groups have become the defining forces of politics beyond the military sphere in current times. In Iraq’s May 2018 elections, the Fatah Coalition, a political list backed by groups known to be closer to Iran within Hashd al-Shaabi, came second after the Sairoon Coalition led by Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Saraya al-Salam, one of the most influential militia groups in Hashd al-Shaabi. Thus, the paramilitary structures became the essential elements of the process of forming a government.

On the other hand, these structures – able to act together only against the common enemy and the goal (Daesh/ISIS) – became increasingly dissociated and even occasionally confronting positions in accordance with the nature of politics. While splits occurred within Hashd al-Shaabi with the developments in Iraqi domestic politics and the dispute between the U.S. and Iran, January’s U.S. assassination in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Army, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Hashd al-Shaabi Delegation, deepened the split within Hashd al-Shaabi.

Groups making up Hashd al-Shaabi

Hashd al-Shaabi was formed by the fatwa of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia authority in Iraq, after the terrorist Daesh/ISIS maintained territorial dominance mainly in Anbar and Mosul and Iraqi security forces were insufficient to fight it. In two weeks following the fatwa by Sistani, about 90,000 people joined Hashd al-Shaabi as volunteer fighters. On the other hand, militia groups involved in the civil war in Syria in 2013 on the grounds of “protecting religious sites” also became a pillar of Hashd al-Shaabi. At this point, it is worth noting that Iran has established great influence on Hashd al-Shaabi through militia groups. Indeed, most of the groups such as Al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid Shuheda were groups driven by Iran.

The same organization continued in the Iraqi field. Although Hashd al-Shaabi had an “Iraqi” identity due to the fatwa by Sistani, a dual structure was formed within Hashd al-Shaabi mainly as pro-Iranian and national groups due to the influence of militia groups close to Iran. However, even though Hashd al-Shaabi emerged as “volunteer troops” in the fight against Daesh/ISIS, a division also emerged within this structure. In addition to the split between the militia groups and the volunteer fighters, the tribes also played an important role in Hashd al-Shaabi. Even the groups formed by the tribes were referred to as “Hashd al-Ashairi.” However, groups that were influential at the regional and local level, though not within the general Hashd al-Shaabi structure, also emerged. Most of these groups were formed by the people of the region or a minority in that region in order to maintain and control a particular region.

Moreover, interest groups seeking to get benefit from the growing power and influence of Hashd al-Shaabi also became part of it. Many of these groups engaged in “gangland” activities, trying to gain interest through illegal means. However, this division within Hashd al-Shaabi and the fact that Hashd al-Shaabi provided an activity that transcended itself revealed an uncontrolled situation in the structure. In addition to the main state mechanism, the formation of a “parallel state” by the militia groups within Hashd al-Shaabi, especially in the regions they control, created an inconvenience even for the Shia religious authority. Moreover, the illegal practices of the paramilitary groups within the organization in some areas also adversely affected the general legitimacy of Hashd al-Shaabi in the eyes of the Iraqi people. Indeed, under a law passed by the Iraqi parliament in 2016 to both take control of Hashd al-Shaabi and put it on a legal footing, these militia groups made an autonomous part of the Iraqi security forces. But it does not seem possible to say that this solves the problems with Hashd al-Shaabi. Even though the militia groups have been transformed into a military unit within Hashd al-Shaabi as in the army structures, almost every militia group continues to maintain its subjective existence. In this sense, the Badr Organization, known as the most influential and largest group within Hashd al-Shaabi, as well as Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Ketaib Hezbollah, and groups that are close to Iran, such as Muqtada al-Sadr, Saraya al-Salam, the Shia religious authority, Ali Akbar, Firkat Al-Abbas, and Ansar al-Margiyya, are taking positions outside the Hashd al-Shaabi structure. As a matter of fact, this situation seems to have deepened them, not only the separation, division and elimination of the problems within Hashd al-Shaabi. In addition to these structural problems, developments in Iraq’s internal policy, especially the U.S.-Iran standoff, have increased the turmoil in Hashd al-Shaabi.

US-Iran strife, protests, and Najaf-Qom rivalry

Tensions between the United States and Iran have persisted, especially since the summer of 2018. These tensions have been growing in the region since the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf following an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil company Aramco. But the protests that began in Iraq in the October of the same year and ensuing developments have moved the tensions toward a conflict over proxy elements. On Dec. 27, 2019, a U.S. citizen was killed in an attack on the U.S. base K1 in Kirkuk, believed to have been carried out by Kataib Hezbollah, and the U.S. attacked Hashd al-Shaabi bases in Anbar province in response to this attack, killing about 30 militia members. Members of the Shia militia groups close to Iran stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. This tension continued with the murder of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. On Jan. 8, ballistic missile attacks were carried out by Iran against U.S. military bases in Anbar and Erbil. In contrast, militia groups such as pro-Iranian Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most important components of Hashd al-Shaabi, also threatened the U.S., making statements that its presence in Iraq would be targeted. From this perspective, it appears that Iran prefers to escalate the tensions by using Hashd al-Shaabi militia groups as proxies rather than directly escalating tensions with the U.S., thus avoiding direct confrontation.

Indeed, it would not be wrong to say that the U.S. responded in the same direction. The U.S., in Iraq, moved against Iran-baked al-Nugaba, Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, some Shia militia groups and made sanctions against their leaders, while these organizations, in joint statements, described the U.S. presence in Iraq as an invasion and made statements that they could target it. On the other hand, the targeting of these groups related to Hashd al-Shaabi in the U.S. has created tension within Hashd al-Shaabi as well. On the one hand, concerns have been expressed that this harsh reaction to the U.S. will not benefit Iraq, while on the other, it is said to cast a shadow over the legitimacy of Hashd al-Shaabi. Indeed, the harsh intervention of the groups close to Iran against demonstrators during the protests is thought to have greatly damaged public support for Hashd al-Shaabi.

At this point, we can say that Iran is trying to boost its control within Hashd al-Shaabi and guide Iraqi politics through repressive methods. Indeed, it is remarkable that Abdulaziz Abu Fadak, a former commander of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the largest groups close to Iran, was nominated as Muhandis’ successor on Feb. 20. However, the fact that pro-Sistani groups within the Hashd al-Shaabi (Hashdi Authority) rejected Abu Fadak’s appointment on the grounds that they had no knowledge of the choice of Muhandis’ successor is another aspect of the conflict within Hashd al-Shaabi. As a matter of fact, the news that these groups wanted to be linked to the Defense Ministry as the Hashdi Authority after Abu Fadak was chosen is another sign of the divergence. This attitude may be tired of Najaf’s resistance to Qom, which has long sought control over the Hashd al-Shaabi, in the new era. Because in terms of Shiism, the Najaf and Qom schools are the two decisive forces. Forced to shut down due to the repressive policies of Saddam Hussein, Najaf regained its former power right after 2003. However, Iran does not want Qom’s dominant position of power, which has enabled it to exert influence over Shiism, to go backwards. For this reason, Hashdi has also created pressure on Shaabi. Given that the Hashd al-Shaabi was founded with the fatwa of Sistani, the largest Shia religious authority in Iraq, we can say that Iran is seeking to gain the upper hand over Najaf by maintaining control over Hashd al-Shaabi. Iran has, thus, reduced the cost of the direct conflict by conducting a proxy war with the U.S. over Hash al-Shaabi, while at the same time trying to gain an advantage in the Qom-Najaf rivalry. On the other hand, the fact that groups close to Iran are showing an anti-U.S. stance and insisting that they are constantly defending Iraq carries the message that says “Iraq is ours.” However, given the reaction against Iran in the protests, it is clear that Iraqis do not want an Iranian presence. At this point, it can be said that Najaf also claimed the identity of Iraqism.

On the other hand, U.S. sanctions against existing groups and the Iraqi government’s quiet and supportive position restrict the movement of pro-Iran groups. At this point, it appears that Iran has adopted a style of movement through new groups so as to provide flexibility. As a matter of fact, a new armed group called Osbat al-Thairin (the Union of Revolutionaries) undertook the attacks on the Taji military base northeast of Baghdad on March 11 and 14. The group last drew attention when the U.S. posted a drone camera shot over the Baghdad embassy on the internet. At this point, the new phase in U.S.-Iran tension, which seems likely to continue escalating over militias, could be expected to be exacerbated by the radical groups fighting a hit-and-run tactic against American forces. This could bring about the disintegration of Hashd al-Shaabi or the decline of its power, and it shows that Iran will not give up its influence in Iraq and will seek to transform the deterrent power of a proxy war with the U.S. Indeed, even if the U.S. has transferred some military bases in Iraq to Iraqi security forces, the fact that it has deployed Patriot air defense systems to the bases in Anbar and Erbil and signs that this will continue can be interpreted as an indication that the fight will continue in the U.S.-Iran-militia triangle in Iraq.

*(Bilgay Duman is coordinator for Iraqi studies at the Middle East Strategic Studies Center (ORSAM), based in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.)

The Obama Lies Leading to the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

US NRC checks review of gas pipeline at New York nuclear plant after report

Washington — The chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ordered a review of the agency’s safety analysis of a natural gas pipeline near the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York after NRC’s inspector general said in a report made public Wednesday the staff review was flawed and might need to be redone.

The NRC IG’s report also said NRC missed an opportunity to correct those flaws when it rejected a subsequent petition from consultants for the town of Cortlandt, New York seeking to reverse the agency’s conclusions.

The NRC’s 2014 review of the 42-inch-diameter Algonquin Incremental Market pipeline, designed to ease gas constraints in New England, was the basis for US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of that project in 2015. The pipeline, which has a capacity of 342 MMcf/d, went into service in January 2017.

NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki directed agency staff Monday to promptly examine whether any immediate action should be taken in response to the report, and determine within 45 days whether the original analysis or the response to the petition should be changed. She also told staff to study whether any modifications to agency practice or procedures are needed.

An immediate review of NRC staff concerns determined no immediate action needs to be taken by the agency, Margaret Doane, the executive director of operations, said in a letter to commissioners dated Wednesday.

Indian Point-2 and -3, about 1,070 MW each, are scheduled to permanently close within the next year. About 2,300 feet of the Algonquin pipeline cross the Indian Point plant property “about a quarter-mile” from the reactors, NRC officials have said.

Prior to operation, New York state officials questioned the safety of having the pipeline cross close to the nuclear plant site, saying a leak or explosion could threaten the operation of the two reactors comprising Indian Point.

Paul Blanch, a nuclear engineer from Connecticut who has been challenging the NRC analysis for seven years, said he was gratified that the IG supported his contention that the review “was nothing but a fabrication.” The culture of NRC and FERC must be changed to they do not always agree with industry requests, he said.

Blanch filed the petition for enforcement action, which the IG’s report said NRC rejected based on a second analysis of the pipeline risk that was inconsistent and potentially non-conservative. He has subsequently petitioned NRC again to take action against Entergy for submitting inaccurate information, including that the pipeline could be shut within three minutes of a potential leak.

Entergy stands by its safety analysis of risks from the pipeline, but is reviewing the inspector general’s report to see if there is any new information, plant spokesman Jerry Nappi said Thursday.

FERC approved the pipeline in March 2015, relying in part on the NRC review, then decided in March 2016 not to halt construction of the pipeline when New York state agencies began an independent safety review.

A FERC spokeswoman did not immediately reply for a request for comment.

The NRC IG’s report said the agency’s study of the issue contained inaccuracies, and that a modeling tool an NRC scientist used to perform an independent analysis of risk from a gas explosion to the nuclear plant was not designed for that purpose. FERC documents on the matter portrayed the NRC analysis as “significantly more conservative that it actually was,” meaning it was described as more definitive about the safety of the proximity of the pipeline to the plant than was actually the case, the OIG said.

Several NRC senior managers agreed after discussions with the IG’s office that it would be prudent to complete another analysis.

“I have questions about how well we validated their analysis, so I think we have more work to do,” a top agency official, who was not named, said in the IG’s report.

How Iran will use the coronavirus crisis for secret nuclear weapon gain

WW3 nuclear plot: Iran may use coronavirus crisis for secret nuclear weapon gain

WW3 nuclear plot: Iran may use coronavirus crisis for secret nuclear weapon gain (Image: Getty)

IRAN may use the coronavirus crisis to its advantage to further its goal of attaining more nuclear material in the global confusion.

By GERRARD KAONGA

World War 3 fears have remained high as Iran-US tensions have refused to subside over the years. Much of this tension has stemmed from Iran’s desire to acquire more nuclear material, an action the US has routinely argued against. Dr Pupak Mohebali an expert from Iran International, owned by Volant Media, noted Tehran could use the confusion and restriction of travel on coronavirus to acquire more nuclear material.

During an interview with Express.co.uk, she said the official international body that monitors a country’s nuclear material stock would be unable to monitor Iran during the pandemic.

This may grant Iran the opportunity to acquire more nuclear material without fear they could face checks to their nuclear stock.

Dr Mohebali said: “Now the hot topic of coronavirus in Iran.

“It definitely has had an impact on Iran’s policies, at all levels and not just the nuclear accords.

“Whether this is good or bad for the West is currently uncertain.

“I would say this is not a good thing anyway as coronavirus may halt the nuclear investigations in Iran.

“This is because of the concerns of further spread of coronavirus.

“If the world’s nuclear watch agency which is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can not have its investigators in Iran at the moment it may cause problems.

“It won’t be easy for the IAEA to know the scope of Iran’s nuclear activities during this time and ultimately this could cause a lot of issues in the future.”

IAEA director Rafael Grossi has previously demanded that Iran cooperate with the agency and allow them full access to suspected nuclear sites.

In early March he argued Iran should cooperate immediately but so far Iran has refused to give answers on three suspected locations where nuclear material is stored.

The Iranian Horn vs. Babylon the Great

Why Ayatollah Khamenei will not negotiate with Trump | Middle East ...

Iran vs. Trump: Suleimani’s Legacy, and Khamenei’s Ambitions

The supreme leader and Trump may well end the long-running, region-defining clash. We just don’t know yet quite how.

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to bring you this comprehensive and authoritative two-part analysis of Donald Trump and Iran, written by Reuel Marc Gerecht. Gerecht is a widely published author, with regular contributions to the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesThe Atlantic and The Weekly Standard. He’s a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and one of the country’s leading experts on Iran and its Islamic revolution. The first part, “The Coming Collision,” examined the incentives the Iranian regime has to continue its confrontational approach to the United States and President Donald Trump. In the analysis below, “The Fallout,” Gerecht looks at the death of Qassem Suleimani, the regime’s internal challenges, the consequences of the Obama nuclear deal, and what we might expect from the coming collision with the Islamic Republic.

Part II. The Fallout

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, appears to believe that the massive public turnout for funeral processions honoring Qassem Suleimani, shows that the revolutionary spirit, Iran’s “divine power … the love, the loyalty, and the resistance of the Iranian nation,” is strong. The United States targeted Suleimani in an early-January attack in Iraq, pointing to the Iranian general’s role in past and—the Trump administration credibly argued—future attacks on Americans, their interests, and their allies. Leaked internal deliberations among senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards after the 2009 pro-democracy Green Movement was crushed and disconcerted commentary among clerics and members of parliament after the 2017 provincial demonstrations certainly suggest that the theocracy’s frontline guardians have had doubts about the “love” of the Iranian people.

What Khamenei doesn’t see or refuses to admit: Suleimani was sui generis. He was the last charismatic figure of the Iranian revolution. The hundreds of thousands who came out to pay their respects probably weren’t in the streets because the regime had coerced them to be there. The mullahs have missed numerous opportunities to orchestrate mass rallies in their favor after big, sometimes violent, protests against the theocracy. The early Islamic Republic loved such gatherings to show popular support. After 2009, the clerical regime avoided these marches, surely because it was uncertain about the loyalty of the middle and lower classes. Massive crowds can overwhelm, and the Iranian security services are neither that large nor that mobile. (The regime remains hesitant to use local police and Basij units, which are far more numerous, against the denizens of their own neighborhoods.)

Yet with Suleimani it was different.

The Quds Force commander was, above all else, a Shiite warrior, an awe-inspiring general who generated fear and loathing among Sunnis throughout the Middle East. In his halting Arabic and more menacing Persian, he was a social-media poster boy for the Shiite downtrodden. He was a symbol of Shiite pride against centuries of Sunni hubris.

Suleimani was the archetype of the militant Shiite: faith converted into violent idealism and brotherhood, propelled by an individualized, indomitable will. But unlike Shiism’s doomed iconic heroes, unlike the legions of Iranian death-wish believers who bled out in the battlefields of the Iran–Iraq War, Suleimani survived. He saw horrible combat in that conflict and yet didn’t hide his contempt for tactics that wasted the lives of his men. He was a man of action amid clerics who rarely were.

Old-time Shiism had a lot of Christianity’s faith in redemption through trials that may leave one dead but blessed. Patience and perseverance, not violence, was always required against injustice. However, new-age Shiism, which Khomeini helped to birth, is bold, assertive, averse to compromise, and, most important, confident that victory against superior numbers (Americans or Sunnis) is possible. One may need to martyr oneself, but the cause can actually win. The faithful don’t have to wait for the Mahdi for the righteous to triumph. Suleimani was the incarnation of that hope and awe until Trump killed him. With his death, that dream probably perished.

The Arab Shia of Iraq and Lebanon, who constitute most of the Arab Shiites who share Iran’s version of the Shiite faith, had, of course, stopped embracing Suleimani’s revolutionary mission civilisatrice long before President Trump tired of the general’s machinations. Suleimani’s standing, like the reputation of the Iranian regime in general, had fallen precipitously among them. Among the young, it appears to have collapsed. Persian hubris and the unconcealable Iranian intention to keep the Iraqi Shiite community beholden tanked the general’s reputation, which had risen high when Sunnis seriously threatened (2005-2007 and 2013–2016).

As much as Syria, Iraq is where the general truly invested himself, where his clandestine actions surfaced and he eventually became a public personality, an open player in Iraq’s fractious, hard-ball democratic politics. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for young Iraqi Shiites to storm the Iranian consulate in Karbala, the historic home of Shiite militancy and martyrdom, and take down the Islamic Republic’s flag and raise the Iraqi one. But they did just that last November. As much as anyone, Suleimani helped to revivify the ancient “Arab-Ajam (Persian)” antagonism, which has sometimes splintered Muslim and Shiite solidarity.

It shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone, except perhaps Westernized Iranian expatriates who believe that militant Shiism has been completely drained from Persian society by the clerical regime’s tyranny, that Suleimani’s demise would lead to massive processions. His fame rarely descended into the pitch-black notoriety that has surrounded so many from the Guards and the Basij.

No one cried when the Guard commander, Brigadier Gen. Hossein Hamadani, died in the battle of Aleppo in 2015; he was as important as Suleimani to Iranian victory in Syria. But he had an open and instrumental role in smashing the pro-democracy Green Movement in 2009. Even among university students who have separated themselves from the Islamic Republic, who use social media to snipe at the regime and voyage to freer realms, Suleimani didn’t always elicit the hatred that is so quickly expressed for Khamenei, Rouhani, and others.

For many, the general had become what Shiites insist on in their guides: a living myth. For the large number of Iranians who’ve embraced a popular, mystical “village Shiism,” who see the coming of the Mahdi before “the end of times,” and who’ve grown particularly hostile to the Shiism of clerics, the processions for Suleimani, a truly poor Kermani boy who rose, were where one could pour out one’s sadness. His death was a national passion play, the beloved ritual that gives the faith some meaning beyond the hypocritical orations of mullahs. Bidding farewell to the general was a way for many, especially those who once cherished the Islamic Revolution and warmed to the anti-Western themes that are part of both Islamic and Persian pride, to part with a forlorn hope and a man who, if nothing else, terrified the Sunnis of Iraq, who’d brought misery to countless Iranian families. As a ferociously anti-regime Iranian exile in Europe pithily put it: “He killed thousands of Sunni Arabs. He scared the shit out of the Saudis. What’s not to love?”

Post-Suleimani  

Despite Suleimani’s death, Khamenei and senior members of the Corps probably believed, at least before COVID-19 struck, that they were in decent shape, at least better than before. In 2009 when pro-democracy demonstrators marched en masse, Khamenei thought Islam was on “the edge of the abyss;” Soleimani’s funeral processions symbolized for him, however, a national-religious awakening. And this efflorescence of zeal arrived via an American missile. This take on Suleimani is, most probably, egregiously wrong, but the supreme leader may well believe that another small-scale confrontation with America is worth the risk given the inspirational upside. Even if Khamenei and senior Guard commanders know the vast majority of the Iranian people have gone south on them and the revolution, the slim hope offered by Suleimani’s killing could be enough for them to tempt fate since only a clash with the United States has offered any hope that the regime still has a base of believers.

The coronavirus eruption, perhaps brought directly from China via sanctions-busting flights run by the Revolutionary Guards’ Mahan Air, may heighten the regime’s awareness of its internal fragility. Surely all know in Iran the regime lied badly and poorly about the infection rate and fatalities. They know that the Mahan Air flights kept coming until Beijing shut them down. And the Islamic Republic’s public health system has long been a mess. The regime’s coronavirus dishonesty and insufficiencies may not do much, however, to weaken the regime’s oppressive capacity unless it affects the confidence of the riot-control forces in the Guards and the Basij. Pandemics can advance state collapse. The Muslim Arab invasions in the seventh century were greatly aided by plagues that had depopulated important buffer zones for both the Byzantine and Persian empires. The Mamluk empire never recovered from the Black Death. But unless the death rate in Iran skyrockets further, or Khamenei becomes one of the virus’ victims, it seems unlikely that the Iranian citizenry will grow any madder or bolder than they already are.

In the short term, COVID-19 will certainly keep people from gathering, which is what the security forces since 2009 have feared most. Down the road the disease might be seen as a tipping point, a viral variation of Chernoybl. The disease may do what U.S. sanctions have failed to do: paralyze the non-oil-based economy. Iran is an institutionally weak state. But the strongest institutions in the country—the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards—are likely to weather the virus without cracking. They have the most to lose in another revolution. And one of the regime’s strongest assets has been widespread, dispiriting cynicism and emigration. Iranians expect the regime to cock up. They expect it to lie. Too many among the best and brightest have fled. And the people’s righteous anger, which is certainly growing, would need to overcome the security forces.

And the bloody efficiency of the supreme leader’s gunmen isn’t yet in doubt. The slaughter last November and December (there are numerous reports of enfilading fire against protesters) shows Khamenei’s and the Guards’ determination to quell any new threat quickly. And rather than try to conciliate demonstrators and the families of the fallen (Khamenei isn’t averse to doing a kill-and-regret two-step), he has mocked them.

And the anti-regime explicitness of these demonstrations coincided with large, anti-Iranian protests among the Iraqi Shia and “anti-corruption,” bad governance protests among the Lebanese Shia, which were clearly aimed at the country’s status quo, which is led by the Hezbollah, the first and favorite Arab child of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Infuriated, Khamenei saw conspiracy everywhere. And in Iran he acted decisively.

The denouement of the gasoline protests complicates Iran policy for the White House. Senior administration officials are hopeful that the clerical regime is on the precipice, that more economic coercion producing a crisis in hard-currency reserves just might convulse the system enough to produce even bigger rebellions and fissure the Guards and the Basij. No doubt the collapse of oil prices is bad news for Tehran even though U.S. sanctions have already taken away most of the regime’s hard-currency earnings from oil. Some senior officials may even believe that they are close to a reckoning that could produce new nuclear talks.

Yet this analysis has always reflected more domestic U.S. politics (since another war in the Middle East isn’t an option, something else must work), a certain exuberance about the possibilities unleashed by disciplined economic warfare, and a hopeful, somewhat Marxist, theory of economic rebellion than a deep dive into what makes the clerical regime tick (God, man, and Iran welded into a transforming, often violent, mission).  It also downplays the probable key factor behind the initiation of Obama’s nuclear talks—big, pre-emptive American concessions, especially uranium enrichment—and overestimates the coercive effect of U.S. and European sanctions.

This hopeful analysis is increasingly off-kilter after the Iranian dead of last winter. No doubt: Big demonstrations will come again. If enough parents and grandparents die from coronavirus, a bigger swath of the youth might take to the streets. Senior Guard commanders certainly give the impression, in their unguarded moments, that spontaneous combustion is an omnipresent possibility. But the regime’s military and security services do not appear as did the shah’s before the fall: divided, listless, and leaderless. When soft power meets hard power in the Middle East, the former loses. No exceptions.

Despite Khamenei’s and the Revolutionary Guards’ resolution, President Trump is playing a decent hand against the clerical regime—so long as he is prepared to escalate and is willing to walk away from Washington’s bipartisan proclivity for nuclear negotiations with the Iranian theocracy. With the possible exception of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, there is no more powerful, just-can’t-kill-it aspiration in U.S. foreign policy than arms control. Unintentionally, Trump’s unorthodox approach may have already deep-sixed it as the preeminent factor in U.S.-Iran policy (Tehran may no longer indulge us), which opens up the possibility for containment, that is, a regime-change strategy however patiently delivered.

Containing Iran would mean that the United States is willing—given the disparity in power, it really ought to be eager—to box the clerical regime’s ears whenever required. The more often the United States demonstrates that it is willing to use overwhelming force, the less likely Khamenei will seriously challenge. Since 1979 the United States has done an abysmal job of holding the Islamic Republic accountable for its actions, even when the mullahs murdered Americans. The killing of Suleimani was a shocker in Tehran in part because it was so un-American. But that effect is fading. The eagerness with which the State Department announced that the administration didn’t want to escalate after the Ayn al-Assad reprisal shows that the White House doesn’t want to change its sanctions-heavy, no-containment, no-challenge approach. The decision by the president not to respond to recent lethal Iraqi Shiite militia attacks against U.S. and British personnel with bombing runs against Iranian forces and facilities, in Iraq or elsewhere, shows that there was give in Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s warning that Tehran would be held accountable for its proxies.

Maintaining Awe 

Washington may suspend reprisals for the death of Americans inside Iraq in an effort to help friendly candidates for prime minister, first Adnan al-Zurfi and now Mustafa al-Khadhimi, and President Barham Salih, a politically brave, pro-American Kurd. But that logic, if rigorously adhered to, will neuter American power in Iraq and ultimately undermine anti-Iranian Iraqis. (Salih’s standing in Iraq went up, not down, after Suleimani’s death.) It could also shut down any American military reprisal against Iran anywhere. Tehran and its Iraqi Shiite proxies will know we won’t kill to protect our own, let alone our allies, which invites more attacks. This line of reasoning only works if our Iraqi allies can politically and militarily gain the upper hand on Iran and its allies within a relatively short period of time, and we can strike the clerical regime elsewhere, and the U.S. armed forces in Iraq can hunker down adequately in the interregnum. None of these is easily achieved.

Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 was a disaster for Iraq and the United States, which was only partly reversed when we returned three years later. But what was done may not be undone. If Iran’s minions continue to kill Americans, then Washington will either have to strike back much more harshly than it has so far, get out, or watch its influence in the country collapse. Fortunately, Iraqi political dysfunction works here to Washington’s advantage: it’s actually hard for Iran, through threat, murder, bribery, and appeals to Shiite fraternity, to rally effectively the Iraqi Shiite community against the United States. Iranian designs on Iraq have become open and crude. And the Iraqi Kurds and Sunni Arabs, who represent around 40 percent of the country, want America to stay. Kicking the U.S. out probably can’t be done by a poorly executed and divisive parliamentary vote when the parliament—the entire political establishment—is held in contempt by an increasingly large slice of the electorate. Washington has some maneuvering room.

Nevertheless, the administration would be well advised to prepare for a worst-case scenario, which means that it needs to develop the necessary capacities to keep U.S. troops at Dayr az-Zor, Syria, regardless of U.S. troop presence in Iraq if Washington intends to deny Iran control of the northern Middle East. That won’t be easy, and at a minimum may require the U.S. Air Force and Navy to violate routinely somebody’s airspace. America could be driven out of Afghanistan by the Taliban and Pakistan, from Iraq by Iran, and from Syria, by Iran or Trump himself. Such a rout of the United States would likely have cascading, global consequences.

And it won’t just be in Iraq where Khamenei tries to degrade President Trump’s writ. Tehran has already started pushing its nuclear program beyond the confines of the JCPOA. It is ignoring requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency to explain apparent violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, including denying access to a site at Turquz-Abad, southwest of Tehran, where uranium conversion appears to have taken place.

The Obama administration played fast and loose with the “possible-military-dimension” questions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Secretary of State John Kerry liked to dismiss concerns about weaponization by suggesting that we knew everything. (That would be a first for the Central Intelligence Agency.) The Europeans, too, have shown little desire to push for answers since any information gathered that suggests Iran has an active arms program that extends beyond uranium enrichment and intermediate-range ballistic missiles might well crater the hope, to which the Europeans still cling, that the JCPOA can be reborn with a Democratic president. But the clerical regime has a way of alienating the Europeans. Stonewalling the IAEA on the NPT while openly increasing the quality and quantity of enriched uranium may be enough to move the Europeans, however begrudgingly, into opposition—despite their loathing of President Trump. They probably wouldn’t implement their own punishing sanctions. COVID-19, and economic self-interest, likely would prevent that. But Iranian bad behavior could stop European statesmen from publicly opposing Washington.

In any case, eventually Trump, assuming the Iranians refuse his future offers to negotiate, will have to decide whether he’s really going to do anything about an Iranian A-bomb. One day Tehran will inject uranium oxide gas into its more advanced centrifuges to test them. Khamenei may do it in the open to see what Washington does. He may not, in which case the administration will be in the dark since, outside of a lucky intelligence penetration, Washington simply has no means to detect this work. With or without the JCPOA, we are blind outside of IAEA-monitored sites. If the Iranians can technically do this before November, and Khamenei believes doing so would hurt Trump, the supreme leader will most likely give the green light.

This come-to-Muhammad moment for Washington was inevitable after Trump pulled America out of the JCPOA. The administration hasn’t really prepared itself, and certainly not public opinion, for this eventuality.  The White House and State have preferred to not think about the Iranian atomic progress since it complicates what has been a simple and effective policy: billions have been denied to the most troublesome, convulsive and murderous regime in the Middle East. They stopped what had been the most successful case of foreign blackmail in American history. And the economic contraction has helped to produce a continuous stream of domestic protests since 2017, protests aimed explicitly at the theocracy, not America. It is striking that Trump and the United States have not become targets in these protests. Trump is responsible for a punishing economic war against the Islamic Republic, yet it’s the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards, the entire theocratic apparatus of oppression, that have taken the hit. The standing of the United States in Iran may have actually gone up.

Many critics of the president who adamantly opposed the renewal of U.S. sanctions now are tirelessly pushing the line that sanctions have been a significant factor in Iran’s COVID-19 pandemic. Given the past commentary of brave Iranian officials on the delinquency and corruption that exists in the Islamic Republic’s government and health care system, given the actions of Mahan Air, given the Swiss channel for procuring medical supplies and the billions of dollars the regime still possesses, these criticisms seem obtuse. The Islamic Republic has tenaciously sought what it wants, through legal and illicit channels, for decades, often paying much more than others to ensure it gets what it requires, especially if it has had anything to do with the nuclear program. And yet we have not seen the regime use the same determination to contract for medical supplies. We have, however, watched Khamenei suggest that the virus may be an American plot, tailor-made to infect Iranians, possibly even with the help of jinn (Khamenei’s conspiracies are vivid, omnipresent, religious, and occasionally supernatural). This conspiracy, which the supreme leader likely, deeply, believes, will certainly amplify his desire to strike the United States.

The American left has long been conflicted about the Islamic Republic. Theocracies don’t normally elicit sympathy from progressives. Yet since the 1970s, the Western left has felt bad about the MI6/CIA-supported 1953 coup against the oil-nationalizing Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. That guilt grew in the 1990s as the anti-clerical Iranian left locked onto the coup as the decisive factor in aborting the rise of an Islam–resistant democracy. But Obama’s “transformative” outreach to Khamenei broke the dike, releasing the left’s discomfort with American hegemony, sympathy for “exploited” Third World countries, growing distaste for Saudi Arabia, and an estimable reverence for Persian culture and history.

And what Obama unleashed Trump has put into overdrive. What he is for, the left is against, especially if it entails the use of force. And Trump may see declining support among Republicans if he chooses to contain the Islamic Republic or check its nuclear advance. Americans now focus on the cost of action; they don’t focus on what happens when Washington does nothing. (The Munich dictum is kaput.) The odds that the United States was ever going to stop the mullahs’ quest for an atom bomb were poor; in an age of American retreat, when politics are so harshly polarized, those odds are worse.

Since World War II, nuclear proliferation has been slow in part because American resolve against it has been great. But the American world order is cracking, and Iran certainly has the capacities of North Korea. If the military option exists, it’s probably Israel that will exercise it. And given the considerable success the Israelis have had in Syria in checking Iranian ambitions, the odds of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear sites have certainly increased. Israeli senior officials seem less fearful, of both Iranian and American repercussions, than they did in 2011–2012, when prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu was seriously exploring the possibility of a preventive military action. In any unity government, Blue & White-now-Israel Resilience leader Benny Gantz, a pretty ardent Iran hawk, might well fortify Netanyahu, whose bark has always been more profound than his bite.

Yet President Trump is a live wire precisely because he often takes actions that don’t appear to be politically astute. But if he doesn’t strike as Iran advances, and the smart money still is that Trump isn’t sufficiently unconventional to do so, especially given his deep desire to lessen America’s responsibilities abroad, then it will become more pressing for him to adopt a policy that makes sense against an Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons. The same would be true of a President Biden if he decides not to throw money at Tehran.

Leaving behind the idea that the United States can actually thwart the Islamic Republic’s acquisition of nuclear weapons might at least oblige Washington to focus more seriously on the nature of the clerical regime, with whether the moderation-through-engagement approach of the Democrats makes any sense. Dartmouth’s Misagh Parsa has done a fine comparative study of unpleasant authoritarian regimes that have evolved into democracies or just less oppressive political systems. The Islamic Republic fails these evolutionary tests. Without the illusion of arms control distorting the foreign-policy debate, we might have greater clarity about how we view, 20 years after 9/11, the Iranian Islamist threat (how much do we fear virulently anti-American mullahs with nukes?), the Middle East (can we leave it?), human-rights and democracy among Muslims (do we believe in their ameliorative effect on Muslim societies?), or whether we would just prefer to trade with Iran’s theocracy because we don’t really have the will to do anything else (scrape off the varnish of the European Union’s love affair with soft power, this is essentially where most Europeans have been for years).

For whatever reasons, Trump has taken Tehran head on. He has probably scared the mullahs and their guardsmen more than any president since Reagan in 1980. By rejecting his predecessor’s evolutionary optimism about the Islamic Republic, and a deeply flawed nuclear agreement that really only made technical sense if one thought Iran was in rapid transition toward something less wicked, he has set the United States on a collision course with religious revolutionaries who have become accustomed to winning. Barring an electoral defeat in 2020 or death by virus or just old age, Khamenei and Trump may well end the long-running, region-defining clash. It could end in war. Or rebellion in the streets. Or just the dismissive shrug of a declining superpower turning inward.

For his part, Khamenei will certainly not go gentle into the night.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Iranian-targets officer in the CIA, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Killing Before the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

15 Pakistan Army Soldiers Killed In Indian Counter Assault Across The LOC – HT Reports

By Xavier FrancisApril 12, 2020

The Hindustan Times citing some intelligence reports says that 15 Pakistan army soldiers along with eight terrorists have been neutralizedwhen the Indian army responded to cease-fire violations and pounded terror targets across the Line of Control.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, “India carried out precision targeting of gun areas, terrorist launch pads, and ammunition in response to unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistan in Keran sector of Kupwara district. There have been reports of heavy damage on their (Pakistan side), an Indian Army defense spokesperson said.

This is the fourth such ceasefire violation in as many days by Pakistan. A senior intelligence official said that Pakistan was deliberately indulging in ceasefire violations in an attempt to use it as a cover to push terrorists across the border.

The exchange has erupted five days after five Indian Special Forces (Para Commandos) were killed in a major high altitude encounter in Kupwara sector of Jammu and Kashmir. India responded by pounding terror positions across the LoC.

Aditya Raj Kaul

@AdityaRajKaul

BIG: India targets Pakistani positions after Pakistan violates ceasefire repeatedly during global #COVID19 pandemic. Precision targeting by Indian Army of Pakistani Gun Positions in PoK, terrorist launch pads and Pakistani ammunition dumps. Heavy casualties reported in Pak.

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After the Indian Army shelled positions in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) accused the Indian Army of resorting to unprovoked firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and injuring civilians.

Pakistan’s military media wing – ISPR said Indian troops used artillery and heavy mortars in the Sharda, Dhudnial and Shahkot Sectors along the LOC and intentionally attacked civilian population in Bessan Wali and Chhari villages.

The Indian Army’s heavy artillery assault on terror launch pads at Dudhnial facing the Keran sector across the Line of Control killed eight terrorists and 15 Pakistan Army soldiers, HT quoted some unnamed sources in the Indian defense establishment.

A senior intelligence official also reportedly told HT that it was not a coincidence that ceasefire violations are being reported from Balakote and Mendhar sectors, firing mortars along LoC. “The situation along the LoC is very hot right now as we speak,” he said.

The EurAsian Times cannot independently verify this story.

Here is the Sixth Seal Zone (Revelation 6:12)

Here are the hidden earthquake zones you don’t know about

April 13, 20204 Min Read

Let’s get able to (probably) rumble.

A report this week from the Los Angeles Instances took a have a look at what a devastating earthquake may do to Los Angeles — and the classes to be discovered from the calamitous 6.three magnitude quake in 2011 that every one however flattened Christchurch, New Zealand.

However whereas People are conscious of the San Andreas fault and the seismic exercise in California, which has wreaked havoc in San Francisco and Los Angeles, there are different, lesser-known fault traces in the United States that fly dangerously underneath the radar. These cracks in the crust have prompted appreciable harm in the previous — and scientists say will achieve this once more.

Virginia Seismic Zone

Richmond, VirginiaShutterstock

In 2011, New Yorkers had been jolted by a 5.eight magnitude earthquake that shook the East Coast from New Hampshire all the approach down by means of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The quake’s epicenter was in Mineral, Virginia, about 90 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and was so highly effective that Union Station, the Pentagon and the Capitol Constructing had been all evacuated.

The quake woke lots of people in the northeast as much as the Virginia Seismic Zone (VSZ) under the Mason Dixon — and the consequential results it may have on main cities alongside the East Coast. The final time the VSZ prompted a lot chaos was in 1867 when it launched an earthquake of 5.6-magnitude — the strongest in Virginia’s historical past.

Ramapo Fault Zone

Shutterstock

It’s not simply the Virginia Seismic Zone New Yorkers have to fret about. Nearer to house is the Ramapo Fault Zone, which stretches from New York by means of New Jersey to Pennsylvania and was most energetic tens of millions of years in the past throughout the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s answerable for a number of of the fault traces that run by means of New York Metropolis, together with one underneath 125th Avenue. In line with a New York Publish report in 2017, “On common, the area has witnessed a reasonable quake (about a 5.zero on the Richter scale) each hundred years. The final one was in 1884. Seismologists say we will anticipate the subsequent one any day now.” Enjoyable occasions!

The New Madrid Seismic Zone

This 150 mile-long sequence of faults stretches underneath 5 states: Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, and is answerable for 4 of the largest earthquakes in the historical past of the United States, which befell over three months from December 1811 and February 1812. The quakes had been so robust the mighty Mississippi River flowed backward for 3 days. Fortunately, the space was not as populated as it’s now, so the harm was restricted. Nonetheless, a FEMA report launched in 2008 warned {that a} quake now could be catastrophic and end in “the highest financial losses as a consequence of a pure catastrophe in the United States.”

The Northern Sangre de Cristo Fault

Downtown Trinidad, Colorado Shutterstock

In 2011, a magnitude 5.three quake hit Trinidad, Colorado, one other space that has seen little seismic exercise on such a big scale. In line with the Colorado Division of Homeland Safety and Emergency Administration, The Sangre de Cristo Fault, which lies at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains alongside the japanese fringe of the San Luis Valley, and the Sawatch Fault, which runs alongside the japanese fringe of the Sawatch Vary, are “two of the most distinguished probably energetic faults in Colorado” and that “Seismologists predict that Colorado will once more expertise a magnitude 6.5 earthquake at some unknown level in the future.”

The Cascadia Subduction Zone

One in every of the most probably harmful fault traces lies north of California, stretching between Oregon and Washington. Main cities like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver lie alongside the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which scientists say has the functionality of a 9.zero or 10 magnitude earthquake — 16 occasions extra highly effective than the 1906 quake which ravaged San Francisco. A quake of this magnitude would have devastating penalties on infrastructure and will probably set off large tsunamis. The risk is so nice, the BBC even did a nifty video on the potential MegaQuake risk.