The Sixth Seal Will Be On The East (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes

Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances

Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM

“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”

“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”

This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.

The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.

“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”

It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.

In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2 from an earthquake of similar magnitude.

“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”

Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.

Save the Oil and the Wine (Revelation 6:6)

The Oil War Is the Next Grave Risk to America

Last month, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame the then-30 percent plunge in oil prices—the worst drop in nearly three decades—on the spat between Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over production levels (and so-called “Fake News”). During the early March meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia (collectively known as OPEC-plus), Saudi Arabia demanded the cartel remove around a million barrels of oil per day from the global market—a deal contingent upon Russia itself cutting five hundred thousand barrels from production.

Russia balked at this suggestion, which was made amidst a slowdown in Asian energy demands due to the coronavirus. The impasse has turned the uneasy alliance between two of the largest oil-producing nations in the world on its head; in retaliation for refusing to comply, Saudi Aramco (the kingdom’s oil behemoth) will increase its output to a mind-blowing thirteen million barrels a day—a 26 percent increase from previous levels. Giving his own take on the news, Trump tweeted that the impending oil glut will be “good for the consumer.”

It also poses a grave risk to U.S. national security.

The day after Riyadh declared a price war on its former energy ally, WTI and Brent futures were trading at $34 and $37, respectively. After almost a month of both sides refusing to blink, futures began trading at less than $23. At those prices, American shale producers are well below the $40 level needed to cover direct operation costs.Saddled with debt, independent companies are bleeding cash as investors rush to sell their stakes in the firms. Without the necessary capital, drillers will be unable to explore, and any new projects will be shelved. Some industry players expect a number of operations to fold and tens of thousands of employees to lose their jobs. Ultimately, U.S. shale output could decrease by more than a million barrels a day. While this loss in American output was initially the Kremlin’s goal, Russia will not have the last laugh.

Instead, Saudi Arabia’s market share is likely to increase significantly. At only $2.80, the kingdom’s production cost per barrel of oil is the lowest in the world. While the United States imports a fraction of its overseas oil from its Middle Eastern partner—around 6 percent over the last few years—the Saudi government could wield its market share to have greater influence over the overall price of oil. The actions of Saudi rulers showcase their enthusiasm for this sort of influence: even as OPEC+ reached a deal to cut global production by a paltry ten million barrels early Thursday, the kingdom moved forward in dispatching seven supertankers collectively holding fourteen million barrels of oil to the Gulf Coast—a sevenfold increase in energy imports from last month. This balancing act—which sent prices plummeting nearly 10 percent on the afternoon the temporary truce was announced—clearly puts on display Riyadh’s distaste for substantive cooperation, even when it comes to a staunch ally like President Donald Trump.

Because oil markets are tightly integrated and globalized in nature, the whims of the ruling Al Saud family could prove acutely damaging to U.S. consumers, especially if global energy demand increases (as the U.S. Energy Information Administration believes it will) in tandem with production concentration. If, for instance, Riyadh wanted to cut production to force the price passed $80 per barrel (the country’s “breakeven” price), then gas prices in the states could skyrocket.

Such a scheme is not difficult to imagine. The country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MbS) is currently underwriting what he views as a war against its archenemy Iran in Yemen, with existential stakes. After more than five years, the Saudi campaign in the now-failed state shows no signs of slowing down, and the Kingdom’s key allies in the fight (chiefly the United Arab Emirates) have washed their hands of the affair.

Less dramatic but just as essential to his legitimacy, MbS must find a way to continue the government’s traditional role as a nanny state (especially as the country grapples with a demographic crunch) while also funding his extremely ambitious Vision 2030 plan, which calls for the modernization of every aspect of the Saudi economy and relying less on oil to fund expenditures. It is the contradictory essence of these two goals that makes them so worrisome: the crown prince will go to great lengths to have his cake and eat it, too, even if it means isolating allies. He gives little thought to global opinion and international norms, as demonstrated by the brutal, extrajudicial murder of Washington Post columnist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi. Washington cannot and should not count on MbS as a stabilizing force in any sense of the word, especially when it comes to his country’s Achilles’ heel: energy.

Should MbS decide to cut production to boost prices in the short term, there is little reason to suggest that American producers could quickly bring extra barrels to the market and regain market share, as they have in the past when prices were high enough to justify exploration. But financial institutions are wary of lending to an industry already drowning in debt, with one major firm viewing energy as “a near-term risk.” The effect of such a precarious market arrangement (or lack thereof) will be devastating to U.S. firms: nearly one-hundred U.S. oil and gas companies are expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the next year, according to the Houston-based law firm Haynes and Boone.

Because oil production operations are so capital intensive and have longer-than-average lead times, independent producers (which produce more than ninety percent of America’s oil) could find difficulties getting off the ground if banks are hesitant in exposing their balance sheets to the industry’s uncertainties. This is understandable: with greater market share, Saudi Arabia could quickly saturate the market with its cheap and easy oil, undercutting those American firms that could manage to get off the ground. With 1.5 to 2 million barrels in spare capacity on hand at all times, the kingdom could easily do just this. The only other countries with such capacity are Iran and Venezuela, both of which are targets of crippling sanctions implemented by the Trump administration.

We know this nightmare scenario is possible because it has happened before, and with dire consequences for the United States. During the 1973 oil embargo, when most international production was concentrated in the OPEC member states, prices quadrupled and the American economy was brought to its knees.

But the risks go beyond fuel rationing and mile-long lines of cars waiting to fill up at gas stations (though the White House has an incentive to avoid such measures, especially in an election year). The largest institutional consumer of oil is the U.S. Department of Defense, which counts on a steady, reliable supply of oil to fuel its operations around the world. If that supply becomes less certain or even just more expensive (at a time when American views of bloated military budgets are not exactly positive), then revanchist adversaries like China and Russia could move to capitalize on perceived American weakness in theaters like the South China Sea, Syria, Europe, and, in Moscow’s case, inside the United States.

Washington can take measures at home and abroad to ensure American economic and national security policy is not dependent on a thirty-four-year-old Saudi prince. Domestically, the Trump administration can offer cheap loans and temporary tax relief to major independent oil producers, which should help them to weather the coronavirus storm and the Saudi-Russian oil war. It could also reverse its stance on alternative sources of energy like solar and wind, and use the same financial tools to help their competitiveness (rather than trying to save the failing coal industry). Indeed, source diversification is perhaps the most pivotal weapon in the American energy arsenal.

Policymakers should have the same mindset when looking abroad. Though it would be a stark departure from the last three years, the Trump administration should open diplomatic channels with President Nicholás Maduro of Venezuela and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. While the isolation of both nations is a hallmark of Trump’s foreign policy, it is no secret that the president likes to portray himself as a dealmaker and has previously signaled a desire to work with Tehran to forge a new JCPOA-like nuclear deal.

A self-styled champion of American oil companies, Trump could normalize relations with Caracas under the guise that he is doing so for the sake of American energy security and business. This claim would not be a stretch: Chevron, an American crown jewel, is the largest foreign producer of oil in Venezuela. As Maduro works to privatize oil extraction in the country, Trump would be wise not to cede any Venezuelan oil to a firm like Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company. More American firms should join the fray.

In order to guarantee American energy and economic security and preserve the U.S. national security agenda, policymakers should be wary of Saudi Arabia, an unreliable ally led by a prince with a questionable track record.

Babylon the Great Tests Her Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

US possibly testing nuclear weapons in Nevada: Russia

2020-04-16 Observation decks at Nevada Test Site © wikimedia.org/Jarek Tuszynski/CC-BY-SA-4.0

The United States may be on the way to bringing its nuclear test site in Nevada on high alert,as many signs attest, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told TASS on Thursday.

“The United States, as many signs attest, including publications citing organizations engaged in the United States in maintaining their nuclear arsenal in combat readiness, may well be bringing their test site in Nevada on high alert,” he said.

The diplomat added that Russia never did anything whatsoever that allegedly violated its obligations on banning nuclear tests.

“As for the barrage of criticism coming from Washington for more than half a year now that we allegedly do not fully comply with our moratorium on nuclear tests, we repeat once again that we did not take any steps that would include elements of deviation from our obligations stemming from our unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and from our ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT),” he said commenting on a report by the US Department of State on the “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” issued on Wednesday.

Ryabkov stressed that the United States, as a country that formally expressed its unwillingness to ratify the accord, had no right to hurl any accusations on this score.

He pointed out that Washington’s actions looked like a disinformation campaign that the United States had launched when it was preparing to unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

“At that time, they [the Americans] tried to find an excuse to create a suitable propaganda background for their subsequent withdrawal from the treaty, blaming others. By doing so, the United States is sowing uncertainty in the international community over what is going on in this area. We urge the United States to abandon the growing practice of misinforming the global community about what is happening,” he emphasized.

According to the US Department of State’s report on the “2019 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” which was submitted to Congress, Washington continues to believe that Russia allegedly conducted nuclear tests last year.

Credit: TASS

China Tests Her Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

China may have conducted low-level nuclear test, US claims | China | The Guardian

State Department report points to activities at China’s Lop Nur test site last year, though it does not have proof

Julian Borger in Washington and agencies

Thu 16 Apr 2020 04.05 EDT

The US state department has claimed China may have secretly conducted a low-yield underground nuclear test, in an accusation likely to further inflame already poor relations between Washington and Beijing.

A report on arms control compliance does not offer proof, but points to circumstantial evidence, of excavations and other stepped-up activity at China’s Lop Nur test site.

“China’s possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur and a lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities … raise concerns regarding its adherence to the zero yield standard,” the state department report, first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, said.

Both the US and China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), concluded in 1996, but neither country has ratified it, and – partly as a result – the agreement has not come into force. However, China has sworn to adhere to CTBT terms and the US has been observing a moratorium on nuclear testing.

If the treaty were in force, it would include a mechanism for on-site inspections of suspect sites.

The US defence intelligence agency leveled similar accusations against Russia in May last year, which were never confirmed.US hawks have been urging the Trump administration to formally break from the CTBT, leaving it free to conduct new nuclear tests of its own.

“Beijing is modernising its nuclear arsenal while the United States handcuffs itself with one-sided arms-control,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton said on Twitter. “China has proven it can’t work with us honestly.”

Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said that the available evidence was possibly consistent with a low-yield tests or with “sub-critical tests”, which do not involve nuclear fission, and which are allowed by the CTBT.

“It is worth noting how thin the evidence is for these claims,” Lewis wrote. “US, Russia and China all conduct subcritical tests…From satellites and seismic stations, subcritical tests are indistinguishable from low yield nuclear tests.”

The finding may worsen ties already strained by US charges that the global Covid-19 pandemic resulted from Beijing’s mishandling of a 2019 outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Wuhan.

The evidence cited by the state department report claimed Beijing’s included blocking data transmissions from sensors linked to an international monitoring center. However, a spokeswoman for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which verifies compliance with the pact, told the Journal there had been no interruptions in data transmissions from China’s five sensor stations since September 2019. Before that, there were interruptions as a result of the negotiating process between the CTBTO and China on arrangements for putting the stations in operation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing that China was committed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and said the United States was making false accusations.

“China has always adopted a responsible attitude, earnestly fulfilling the international obligations and promises it has assumed,” he said. “The US criticism of China is entirely groundless, without foundation, and not worth refuting.”

Russia and China say US missile test could revive arms race

A senior US official said the concerns about China’s testing activities buttressed President Donald Trump’s case for getting China to join the US and Russia in talks on an arms control accord to replace the 2010 New Start treaty between Washington and Moscow that expires in February next year.

New Start restricted the US and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads, the lowest level in decades, and limited the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that deliver them.

“The pace and manner by which the Chinese government is modernising its stockpile is worrying, destabilising, and illustrates why China should be brought into the global arms control framework,” said the senior US official on condition of anonymity.

China, estimated to have about 300 nuclear weapons, has repeatedly rejected Trump’s proposal, arguing its nuclear force is defensive and poses no threat.

Russia, France and Britain – three of the world’s five internationally recognised nuclear powers – signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which still requires ratification by 44 countries to become international law.

Nothing Will Stop Iranian Aggression (Daniel 8:4)

Why Coronavirus Hasn’t Stopped Iranian Aggression

Irina Tsukerman

April 16, 2020,

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hassan Rouhani, image via Wikimedia Commons

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,533, April 16, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In sum and substance, Iran has a clear objective, a strategy, and the willingness to invest and take risks to fulfill it. The US demonstrates exactly the opposite in every respect. Thanks to its unswervable focus and determination even in the face of calamity, the Islamic Republic’s march through the Middle East is likely unstoppable.

Despite the deadly spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout Iran, which may have affected as many as 500,000 people according to internal reports, Iran’s aggression and military adventurism continue unabated. It is pushing the envelope in Iraq, planning attacks on US targets, continuing to arm Houthis in Yemen, and defying calls for a ceasefire in that country to combat the pandemic. According to the latest reports, Iranian authorities just killed 36 Ahwazi Arab prisoners who had tried to break out of overcrowded, unsanitary prisons known for their brutality after the regime failed to liberate any Ahwazi prisoners either for holidays or for humanitarian reasons related to the outbreak.

According to Israeli academic Raz Zimmt, this regional aggression is likely to continue unabated no matter what the obstacles and despite all predictions that tough sanctions or an increased US military presence will deter Tehran and force it to backtrack. There is a variety of reasons for this.

First, as Zimmt correctly notes, Iran’s regional and nuclear agenda predate the Islamic Revolution. The Shah contemplated developing nuclear capabilities, shelved the idea temporarily, and never had a chance to revisit it. As Zimmt writes:

…time and time again, Iran has proved that, despite its limitations and weaknesses, it manages to hold on and turn threats into opportunities that preserve not only the regime’s survival, but its regional influence, as well. Iran certainly knows how to play the regional game in comparison to other nearby players. Tehran has the patience to wait until its ambitions are fulfilled and is highly determined and pragmatic, knowing how to adapt its strategy to meet new challenges.

Iran’s persistent ground game, also known as its “ideological land bridge,” has been noted by many other scholars, including Al Hurra’s Alberto Fernandez, Jonathan Spyer, and Reza Parchizadeh.

Reported planned attacks on US targets,despite increased US willingness to push back against Iran-funded militias and the relocation of air defense to the region, are an illustration of this ground game. Far from being reckless ideological fanatics when it comes to military strategy in the narrow sense, Iran has utilized its strong understanding of the geopolitical context to advance its agenda. From Iran’s perspective, it is at an advantage right now for several reasons.

Unlike Western societies, Iran is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get where it wants to go. That is why the propaganda about “endless wars” presumably resulting from any strong response to Iran’s aggression has worked so well in the US, which has demonstrated a lack of stamina for protracted asymmetrical conflicts and a lack of tolerance for even minimal loss of American lives over anything that is not a direct defense of US territory. Part of this has to do with the media coverage of conflicts, part to weariness resulting from past failed involvements in the Middle East, and part to a changing culture increasingly unwilling to deal with any perceived pain, however distant.

The US loss to the Taliban in Afghanistan is due not so much to the inherent superiority of local knowledge as to a lack of willingness to a) summon the sufficient political will to set realistic parameters, b) commit to long-term investments in the region, and c) confront and challenge state actors backing terrorist groups. A similar dynamic can be observed in Iraq, where Iran has been willing to invest in “state building” for its supporters while the US has limited its involvement to minimal necessary military operations. Iran is willing to divert infinite resources away from the needs of its own population for the support of its militias and for outreach to potential recruits. At the same time, the regime views the Iraqi militias and its other foreign troops, including Afghanis and Pakistanis, as expendable. Throwing these forces at the US will always be a “win” for Iran.

Even if they cost the lives of some leaders, Iran’s attacks demonstrate its unabating fervor and dedication to expelling the US from the region. The Americans’ continued exclusive focus on ISIS and unwillingness to treat the Iraqi government as a colony of Iran—a sort of willful blindness conveyed by the US administration to its own people—play into Iran’s hands. With the US increasingly treated as an unwelcome guest in Iraq while the US government grasps at straws to defend its relationship with Baghdad, Iran is successfully weaponizing the supposedly nationalist Muqtada Sadrand using the cover of the coronavirus pandemic to push ahead. While it is unlikely that the US will exit Iraq altogether after moving forces from Syria to that country, it will likely continue to play defense for the foreseeable future. That’s all Iran needs at this point.

Iran has correctly calculated that the US is highly unlikely to be willing to commit to anything that could possibly increase the optics of violence and increased commitment abroad in an election year—especially in the middle of a pandemic. Coronavirus has put a strain on US naval resources, and the Iranians proliferating throughout Iraq and Syria are a walking biohazard. Limited retaliatory airstrikes are the most that can be counted on in response to violent provocations.

Iran, meanwhile, is continuing to receive the infusions of cash it needs to proceed down its path. That cash flow is not hindered in any way by the striking down of Iranian officials by the virus thanks to the regime’s denialism and the country’s poor medical care. European willingness to provide humanitarian aid; continuing business with Europeans, Chinese, and Russians; civil nuclear waivers provided by the US; and the acquiescence by various countries to the circumventing of sanctions offset the economic pressure delivered by the Americans’ unwillingness to lift those sanctions. Furthermore, Iran’s shadow economy, which is based in overlooked ventures in Oman and other places, illicit investments, drug trafficking, and organized crime schemes, continues to be a stable source of income even in these trying times.

Iran also has the advantage of a clear objective and strategy in terms of exporting its revolution and asserting its presence beyond the Levant into the Mediterranean. The US, while claiming an interest in rolling back Iranian influence, has put forth no vision of what that entails. It has already tacitly admitted that containment has failed, and despite tough talk from the White House, there appears to be no possibility of an internal coup that would topple the regime from within. “Rolling back” Iranian ideology and outreach would require a detailed plan, close cooperation with other major regional actors, ideological involvement, and the dedication of financial, intelligence, and technological resources. The US is in no position to dedicate itself to such a project right now, and in any case is not willing to do so.

Furthermore, this is a new era. Where once the US had the bold vision and willingness to strategically invest in goading the Soviet Union into underwriting space and arms programs that drained its resources, revealed its weaknesses to the public, countered decades of propaganda, and inspired generations on both sides of the Iron Curtain to admire the US as a vanguard for scientific progress, the US of today is focused on domestic political spats and lags China on investment in AI and quantum technology. And while the US is by far superior to Iran in terms of military force, Iran’s reliance on asymmetrical warfare, combined with the American unwillingness to decisively use its formidable power, essentially neuter this operational superiority in terms of both its physical and its psychological impact on the adversary.

Despite the many challenges it faces, the Iranian revolutionary establishment is empowered by its successful division of all opposition movements, ability to manipulate portions of the population, and that population’s continued dependency on the regime.

While uprisings occasionally send Basiji or other Iranian regime apparatchiks fleeing in the periphery, the opposition movements lack the level of cohesion that might tempt key players inside the sprawling Iranian bureaucracy to abandon their positions and undermine the regime into a state of collapse. Furthermore, the IRGC has taken on an increasingly central role in the running of the state. Despite obstacles, it is still a formidable, disciplined, aggressive, and well-armed machine and it remains vigilant about preventing any penetration by the perceived adversary. US policy experts have shown no understanding of the political divisions inside the Iranian government or its intelligence apparatus that could be effective if played against one another until the regime is enfeebled and self-destructive. (Neither has anyone else.)

Finally, the regime has observed US internal divisions and inconsistency in shaping any sort of foreign policy strategy and has learned to take advantage of the wealth of information the US reveals about its own vulnerabilities.

The combination of all these factors explains Iran’s brazen push forward despite the seemingly tough rhetoric emanating from the White House. Actions speak louder than words, and while Iran is willing to walk the walk, the US does not back up its escalating talk with anything more than an occasional show of force. When the US appears to have no plan of any kind, Iran’s strategy wins by default.

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security attorney based in New York. She has written extensively on geopolitics and US foreign policy for a variety of American, Israeli, and other international publications.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow

A Technical and Policy Note on Iran’s Recent Uranium Enrichment Capacity Claims – An Annex summarizes the status of Iran’s enrichment program, based on the last quarterly report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

by David Albright and Sarah Burkhard

April 15, 202

On April 8, 2020, one day before Iran’s Nuclear Technology Day, a spokesperson for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) announced that Iran could produce 60 “advanced” centrifuges a day, with the goal to reach an enrichment capacity of 250,000 separative work units (swu) per year, ultimately one million swu per year.1 It is unlikely, for several reasons, that Iran will reach this capacity with its existing advanced centrifuges for many years, if ever. Currently, its enrichment capacity is about 7500 swu per year (see Annex). This capacity represents a growth of about 20 percent since November 2019 with almost three quarters of that capacity invested in first generation IR-1 centrifuges, the rest in a mélange of advanced centrifuges. To reach 250,000 swu per year, Iran would need to increase its current enrichment capacity 30-fold, entailing the installation and operation of tens of thousands of advanced centrifuges. This goal seems out of Iran’s reach, faced with advanced centrifuges that rarely work as planned and often fail, with a chaotic program that appears to be developing far too many centrifuges, all at best mediocre and poorly performing, and with little chance of ever competing economically with Russian and European centrifuges that supply most of the enrichment needs of nuclear power reactors in the world, including Iran’s own Bushehr reactor.

However, this bluff pays dividends for expanding a nuclear weapons capability; such an official “civilian” aim serves as a cover story for ramping up domestic centrifuge production and enrichment capacity. Even if Iran fails to reach the 250,000 swu per year, as expected, its enrichment capacity could become sufficient at even less than one-tenth that number for relatively short breakout time to produce weapon-grade uranium, a key nuclear explosive material.

Such a large centrifuge production capacity would also make it easier to hide centrifuges, deploying them later at an opportune time in clandestine centrifuge plants, shortening breakout times further as well as complicating knowing where breakout is occurring.

Iran’s Statement is a Bluff

An annual 250,000 swu enrichment capacity can produce enough enriched uranium needed to fuel annually about two commercial nuclear power reactors of the size of the existing Bushehr reactor, this capacity being a minimum size of a modern, civilian enrichment program. A rate of 60 centrifuges per day works out to 21,900 centrifuges a year, assuming production every day of the year. This number appears very high; it goes without saying that Iran is likely exaggerating the rate, but there are several other issues that undermine such an annual production of functioning, reliable centrifuges, able to lead to an enrichment capacity of 250,000 swu per year.

• Iran’s advanced centrifuges have not achieved enrichment capacities much above 5 swu/year per machine, making it necessary to build many tens of thousands of them to reach 250,000 swu/year. At 5 swu/year/machine, Iran would need to deploy 50,000 centrifuges to reach that capacity. Its IR-8 was supposed to reach a value of over 10 swu/year, but this centrifuge has been a failure. Any claims about an IR-9 are likely bluster. Its IR-6, which had a measured single-machine capacity of less than 7 swu per year, is still under development, although Iran is concentrating on its family of IR-6 centrifuges at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (see Annex). One of these may emerge as Iran’s advanced centrifuge of choice but likely with an average output far below 10 swu/year when operating in production-scale cascades.

• Based on Iran’s history of building and operating centrifuges, many of its centrifuges do not meet quality assurance standards, or they fail in pre-operational tests or during operation in cascades. The failure rates of the IR-1 and IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz have been recorded by the IAEA as 20 percent or higher per year.

• Iran’s centrifuges require raw materials, some are sensitive and not made by Iran, such as carbon fiber. For example, all its advanced centrifuges have rotors made from carbon fiber. Sanctions would make it very difficult for Iran to acquire enough carbon fiber to produce 60 advanced centrifuges a day on a sustained basis. Its IR-2m needs maraging steel in its bellows, a high strength, specialized subcomponent connecting rotor tubes, requiring another sensitive, controlled raw material Iran does not make and thus necessitating illicit procurements of enough maraging steel from abroad to make tens of thousands of centrifuges.

The Danger of Iran’s Enrichment Program

Bluffing about reaching this large capacity helps Iran counter the arguments of those that call for a shut-down of its enrichment program for one reason: it will never be economically viable. In the meantime, Iran can use this public goal to hide a growing centrifuge program that would powerfully expand its nuclear weapons breakout capabilities, if implemented.

Breakout times would shorten drastically. Despite their problems, Iran’s advanced centrifuges offer a clear advantage over its existing IR-1 centrifuge, each one providing four to over six times the enrichment output of a single IR-1 centrifuge.

Ramped up advanced centrifuge manufacturing also increases the risk of undetected clandestine production of centrifuges and a secret enrichment plant. This risk can increase even under IAEA monitoring, if critical centrifuge production materials and equipment are not under strict supervision. Just recently, the IAEA reported in its latest quarterly reports on an on-going violation of the monitoring of carbon fiber, a warning that has attracted little response.2 On February 17, 2020, the IAEA “verified that Iran was continuing to manufacture centrifuge rotor tubes using carbon fibre that was not subject to continuous Agency [IAEA] containment and surveillance measures,” as required by the JCPOA and a decision of the Joint Commission of January 14, 2016 (see INFCIRC/907).3 Iran is known to be able to obtain illicitly supplies of carbon fiber and other sensitive goods for centrifuge manufacturing and appears to be using some of these ill-gotten goods in manufacturing advanced centrifuges. Despite some successes, Iran is often thwarted in its attempts to obtain carbon fiber abroad,4 making it unlikely that it could smuggle enough to sustain a manufacturing rate of 60 centrifuges per day. However, as in the case of separative output, Iran could likely smuggle enough carbon fiber to build many thousands of advanced centrifuges and achieve relatively low breakout timelines.Moreover, smuggled carbon fiber could be used in a parallel, secret centrifuge manufacturing plant to make centrifuges for a clandestine centrifuge plant. To mitigate this risk, IAEA access to any site in Iran is crucial, a necessity and an IAEA right that has never been achieved, with or without the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

It is time to end this charade that somehow Iran’s centrifuge program is justified, or somehow legitimized by the JCPOA. For those in Iran and elsewhere who believe that its nuclear program is peaceful, abandoning enrichment voluntarily is the only sensible economic course of action, an act that would also go far in ending Iran’s current economic and political isolation. Given a hugely uneconomic centrifuge program, one posing an unacceptable security risk to the region and the world and spurring other countries to proliferate, the international community’s most sensible option is to insist that Iran end its uranium enrichment program.

Annex Status of Iran’s Enrichment Capacity as of March 2020, based on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Quarterly Report on Iran

This annex summarizes and assesses the reporting in the IAEA’s March 3, 2020 quarterly report, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).5

IR-1 Centrifuge Deployments at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP)

At the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in its last quarterly report that Iran operated no more than 5060 IR-1 centrifuges in 30 cascades. Iran withdrew 92 IR-1 centrifuges from storage to replace broken ones in these cascades. During the previous reporting period, it withdrew 48 IR-1 centrifuges, and during the prior one, it withdrew 18 IR-1 centrifuges. The large jump in the replacement number likely reflects the stepped-up production of enriched uranium and consequent centrifuge breakage that plagues IR-1 centrifuges.

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP)

The IAEA reported that as of January 22, 2020, the Fordow plant was enriching uranium in six cascades, containing 1044 IR-1 centrifuges, in one wing of the plant, called Unit 2. An additional 13 IR-1 centrifuges were installed in Unit 2, all of them involved in initial research and development activities related to stable isotope production.

Iran has rendered defunct the JCPOA’s provision that the Fordow plant be converted to a nuclear, physics, and technology research center. A senior Iranian official emphasized that reality, stating on November 9, 2019, “In fact, we can say that we have abandoned a number of clauses of the JCPOA, including the 44th, which stipulates that Fordow should be transformed into an international nuclear and physical center.”6 Iran has also been actively creating a domestic nuclear equipment production plant at nearby Fordow support facilities.7

Advanced Centrifuges

Iran continued to take steps during this IAEA reporting period to violate the JCPOA’s limitations on advanced centrifuges. The following summarizes the deployment of advanced centrifuges in the six lines at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP), their enrichment status, and their enrichment capacity, if known, as of the end of the last IAEA reporting period.

Iran is no longer remixing the product and tails (waste), but collecting it separately, meaning that Iran accumulates enriched uranium at the PFEP. As of February 19, 2020, 268.5 kilograms (uranium mass) of uranium enriched up to two percent had been collected from lines 2 and 3 of the six lines at the PFEP. The IAEA does not provide the average enrichment of this material, although it can be safely assumed that it varies from just above natural uranium (0.71% uranium 235) up to 2% uranium 235. (This average value matters because the amount of separative work to make, for example, a quantity of two percent enriched uranium is several times the amount to make that quantity of one percent enriched uranium.) The IAEA did not reveal how much enriched uranium was collected in the other lines of the PFEP.

Lines 2 and 3 contained a variety of centrifuge types and numbers, many accumulating enriched uranium. The following is a summary, as of the end of the last reporting period, of all the centrifuges installed in lines 2 and 3, or about 100 in total, that were accumulating enriched uranium (so far about 268.5 kg, as mentioned above):

1 Up to 20 IR-2m centrifuges in a cascade;

2 Up to 20 IR-4 centrifuges in a cascade;

3 Up to 10 IR-5 centrifuges in a cascade;

4 Up to 30 IR-6 centrifuges, in a centrifuge cascade of 10 IR-6 centrifuges and another one of 20 IR-6 centrifuges;

5 Up to 20 IR-6s centrifuges in cascades

According to the IAEA report, the following single centrifuges were being tested with uranium hexafluoride in lines 2 and 3 but not accumulating enriched uranium:

1 two IR-2m centrifuges;

2 one IR-3 centrifuge;

3 one IR-4 centrifuge;

4 one IR-5 centrifuge;

5 one IR-6 centrifuge;

6 one IR-6m centrifuge;

7 one IR-6s centrifuges;

8 one IR-6sm centrifuge;

9 two IR-7 centrifuges;

10 two IR-8 centrifuges;

11 one IR-8s centrifuge;

12 one IR-8B centrifuge;

13 one IR-s centrifuge; and

14 one IR-9 centrifuge.

Iran also accumulated enriched uranium in lines 4, 5, and 6, in redeployed IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge cascades (164 centrifuges each) and an IR-6 cascade (72 centrifuges), although the IAEA did not specify how much enriched uranium had been produced so far, or its level of enrichment. It is possible that this enriched uranium is included in the IAEA’s aggregate, reported amount of enriched uranium enriched up to 4.5 percent.

The redeployed 164 IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge cascades in lines 4 and 5 of the PFEP represent Iran’s most successful advanced centrifuge types. When previously operated in a production-scale cascade, each IR-2m centrifuge had an enrichment capacity of about 3.7 SWU per year. The total cascade thus has an estimated enrichment capacity of about 607 SWU per year. This is equivalent to about 675 IR-1 centrifuges operating in production cascades, where each IR-1 is assumed to have a capacity of 0.9 SWU per year. The IR-4 has a lower capacity than the IR-2m, estimated here as ten percent lower, or about 3.3 SWU per year per centrifuge. The production cascade would have a total output of about 540 SWU per year, or equivalent to about 600 IR-1 centrifuges. These two cascades represent a total capacity of about 1,147 SWU/year, or the equivalent of about 1,275 IR-1 centrifuges.

Line 6 at the PFEP held 72 IR-6 centrifuges in a single cascade. Iran stated earlier that the line will hold 164 IR-6 centrifuges in a cascade.8 The IR-6 has a single machine estimated capacity of 6.8 SWU per year. No recent data are available publicly on its performance in this cascade. Assuming that the cascade value would be about 90 percent of the capacity achieved by an IR-6 operating by itself, 72 IR-6 centrifuges in cascade would have an output of about 441 SWU per year, and a cascade of 164 IR-6 would have total capacity of about 1,000 SWU per year, or the equivalent of about 1,115 IR-1 centrifuges.

Line 1 holds an inoperable cascade of IR-1 centrifuges. In addition, according to the quarterly IAEA report, “On 7 January 2020, the Agency verified that, for eight days, Iran had conducted mechanical testing of eight IR-6 centrifuges simultaneously – two at the Tehran Research Centre and six at a workshop in Natanz.”

As can be seen, Iran is developing a large number of centrifuges simultaneously, an unusual practice. The centrifuges at the PFEP include: IR-1, IR-2m, IR-3, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-6m, IR-6s, IR-6sm, IR-7, IR-8, IR-8s, IR-8B, IR-s, and IR-9. No information was provided in the IAEA report on how well these centrifuges work, their failure rates, or why so many of them are being developed. Typically, a centrifuge program with such characteristics is likely failing at developing a commercially viable centrifuge, although several of these centrifuges could work adequately in a nuclear weapons program, where efficiency, low failure rates, and low cost are not priorities.

Enrichment Capacity

Iran continues to increase its enrichment capacity and gain additional experience in operating advanced centrifuges. While the former is reversible, the latter is not. This knowledge and experience cannot be lost. Table A.1 summarizes the enrichment capacity by facility. Iran’s enrichment capacity has grown from an estimated 6200 swu/yr to 7492 swu/yr during this reporting period, representing a growth of about 21 percent.9

Table A.1. Number of Centrifuges Enriching and Total Enrichment Capacity

*The value for lines 2 and 3 of the PFEP is a rough estimate based on the use of estimated and measured values for the separative output of these centrifuges in cascades, drawn from IAEA information. The values for lines 4, 5, and 6 of the PFEP are given in the text. All of the values used to make these estimates reflect historical enrichment output values obtained by Iran prior to the nuclear deal and do not reflect current values, which are not included in the IAEA’s quarterly reports.

1. ISNA News Agency, April 8, 2020 (in Farsi). We wish to thank William Broad at The New York Times for pointing out this media report. ↩

2. IAEA Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/2020/5, March 3, 2020, https://isis-online.org/uploads/iaea-reports/documents/IAEA_quarterly_Iran_report_February_2020.pdf

3. Relevant clauses from INFCIRC/907: “Template for Describing Centrifuge Types: Explanatory Note,” II(3)(e)(v). The IAEA would verify that Iran only engages in manufacturing of centrifuge rotor tubes using the material that are drawn from the above referenced dedicated monitored storage locations for as long as Paragraph 61 of the Annex 1 of the JCPOA remains in effect, subject to the exception specified below. II(3)(e)(v). Despite the readiness of supply, Iran may decide, consistent with the JCPOA, to manufacture centrifuge rotor tubes using its own materials of construction, provided that the IAEA has verified the technical specifications of these materials through sampling and maintained them under monitoring until their use in the manufacture of rotor tubes. ↩

4. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Spencer Faragasso, Linda Keenan, and Andrea Stricker, Illicit Trade Networks – Connecting the Dots, Volume 1 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Science and International Security, 2020), https://isis-online.org/books/detail/illicit-trade-networks-connecting-the-dots-volume-1

5. IAEA Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/2020/5, March 3, 2020,https://isis-online.org/uploads/iaea-reports/documents/IAEA_quarterly_Iran_report_February_2020.pdf

6. “Iran May Reject Modernisation of Arak Reactor: Atomic Energy Organisation,“ Sputnik, November 9, 2019, https://english.almanar.com.lb/866824

7. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Frank Pabian, and Jack Toole, “Conversion of Fordow: Another Unfulfilled Hope of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Institute for Science and International Security, July 10, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/conversion-of-fordow-another-unfulfilled-hope-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal

8. IAEA Acting Director General, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), GOV/INF/2019/12, September 26, 2019,https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/19/11/govinf2019-12.pdf

9. David Albright and Andrea Stricker, “IAEA Iran Safeguards Report Analysis – Iran Commits Multiple Violations of the Nuclear Deal, Several Non-Reversible,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 13, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/iaea-iran-safeguards-report-analysis/8

The Nations Are Planning For War Outside The Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Hamas-affiliated Humat al Aqsa promotes its joint military operations with Gaza’s militant groups

By Joe Truzman | April 15, 2020 | Joe.Truzman@longwarjournal.org | @Jtruzmah

Humat al Aqsa (Defenders of al Aqsa)

Humat al Aqsa (HAA), a Gaza-based group that has long been suspected of being founded, directed and funded by senior Hamas political leader Fathi Hamad, recently promoted joint military operations with militant groups in the Gaza Strip on its social networking platforms.

HAA was established in April 2006, one year before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah.

Hamad’s involvement stemmed from a June 2011 indictment against a member of the group said “the offshoot enjoyed funding directed by no other than Fathi Hamad – Hamas’ interior minister in Gaza – who is known to be closely affiliated with the group’s military wing.”

Humat al Aqsa and al Qassam Brigades’ 2008 operation

In recent social media posts, the group touted its joint operations with Hamas’ military wing, al Qassam Brigades. The most notable being an April 2008 operation against Israel’s former security minister Avi Dichter whose convoy was attacked while it traveled near the Gaza border.

On the April 8 anniversary of the attack, HAA published a video releasing the name of one of the attackers of the convoy, Abdullah Hassan al Za’aneen, who was later killed after being targeted by an IDF drone in 2012.

Additionally, HAA revealed the role of Hamas’ late military chief Ahmed Jabari in the 2008 attack.

“We do not forget the great role of the martyr commander, Ahmed al Jabari, who blessed and contributed to the support of the operation, and who praised the performance of the martyr al Za’aneen, who executed the operation with courage,” the statement read.

The attack failed to hurt Dichter but was successful at showcasing the group’s intelligence capability in locating where Dichter would be on the day of the attack.

Other recent military activities conducted by the group include its participation in several short lived conflicts between the IDF and other militant groups over the past two years. One of the group’s fighters, Imad Muhammad Nasir, was killed by the IDF in May 2019 as he attempted to launch rockets in the northern Gaza Strip.

Explosive-laden balloons launched by HAA

Furthermore, the group published evidence of its participation in a low-tech pressure campaign against the Israeli government that began in early 2018 with the March of Return.Over a two-year period, border units affiliated with militant groups launched explosive-laden balloons toward Israel. HAA admitted to the activity, an act that other militant groups have hinted but have never publicly acknowledged.

In 2019, HAA publicly denounced claims that Hamad was the organization’s leader, saying “the movement does not belong to anyone and enjoys complete independence, whether in the political circles, or even in military action.”

Despite the denial, the creation of an organization like HAA serves Hamas’ military operational needs as it attempts to maintain the facade of a pragmatic organization to the international community. It permits Hamas to carry out attacks against Israel while maintaining deniability that it is not involved in terrorism against Israeli civilians which in turn serves its strategic goals.

Additionally, HAA bears many of the same operational hallmarks as its militant counterparts in the Gaza Strip including an armament of rockets, IED’s, small arms and specialized military units. However, HAA does not share the U.S. State Department’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) despite the fact it behaves identical to Palestinian militant groups on the list.

Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.