Two Centuries Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Image result for 1755 massachusetts earthquakeThe worst earthquake in Massachusetts history 260 years ago

It happened before, and it could happen again.

By Hilary Sargent @lilsarg

Boston.com Staff | 11.19.15 | 5:53 AM

The earthquake occurred in the waters off Cape Ann, and was felt within seconds in Boston, and as far away as Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, and upstate New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists have since estimated the quake to have been between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

While there were no fatalities, the damage was extensive.

According to the USGS, approximately 100 chimneys and roofs collapsed, and over a thousand were damaged.

The worst damage occurred north of Boston, but the city was not unscathed.

A 1755 report in The Philadelphia Gazette described the quake’s impact on Boston:

“There was at first a rumbling noise like low thunder, which was immediately followed with such a violent shaking of the earth and buildings, as threw every into the greatest amazement, expecting every moment to be buried in the ruins of their houses. In a word, the instances of damage done to our houses and chimnies are so many, that it would be endless to recount them.”

The quake sent the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall tumbling to the ground, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

An account of the earthquake, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on December 4, 1755.

The earthquake struck at 4:30 in the morning, and the shaking lasted “near four minutes,” according to an entry John Adams, then 20, wrote in his diary that day.

The brief diary entry described the damage he witnessed.

“I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it,” he wrote. “The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.”

The shaking was so intense that the crew of one ship off the Boston coast became convinced the vessel had run aground, and did not learn about the earthquake until they reached land, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In 1832, a writer for the Hampshire (Northampton) Gazette wrote about one woman’s memories from the quake upon her death.

“It was between 4 and 5 in the morning, and the moon shone brightly. She and the rest of the family were suddenly awaked from sleep by a noise like that of the trampling of many horses; the house trembled and the pewter rattled on the shelves. They all sprang out of bed, and the affrightted children clung to their parents. “I cannot help you dear children,” said the good mother, “we must look to God for help.

The Cape Ann earthquake came just 17 days after an earthquake estimated to have been 8.5-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Lisbon, Portugal, killing at least 60,000 and causing untold damage.

There was no shortage of people sure they knew the impretus for the Cape Ann earthquake.

According to many ministers in and around Boston, “God’s wrath had brought this earthquake upon Boston,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In “Verses Occasioned by the Earthquakes in the Month of November, 1755,” Jeremiah Newland, a Taunton resident who was active in religious activities in the Colony, wrote that the earthquake was a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

“It is becaufe we broke thy Laws,

that thou didst shake the Earth.

O what a Day the Scriptures say,

the EARTHQUAKE doth foretell;

O turn to God; lest by his Rod,

he cast thee down to Hell.”

Boston Pastor Jonathan Mayhew warned in a sermon that the 1755 earthquakes in Massachusetts and Portugal were “judgments of heaven, at least as intimations of God’s righteous displeasure, and warnings from him.”

There were some, though, who attempted to put forth a scientific explanation for the earthquake.

Well, sort of.

In a lecture delivered just a week after the earthquake, Harvard mathematics professor John Winthrop said the quake was the result of a reaction between “vapors” and “the heat within the bowels of the earth.” But even Winthrop made sure to state that his scientific theory “does not in the least detract from the majesty … of God.”

It has been 260 years since the Cape Ann earthquake. Some experts, including Boston College seismologist John Ebel, think New England could be due for another significant quake.

In a recent Boston Globe report, Ebel said the New England region “can expect a 4 to 5 magnitude quake every decade, a 5 to 6 every century, and a magnitude 6 or above every thousand years.”

If the Cape Ann earthquake occurred today, “the City of Boston could sustain billions of dollars of earthquake damage, with many thousands injured or killed,” according to a 1997 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The War Outside the Temple Walls and Future Conflicts (Revelation 11)

What Israel’s Wars in Gaza Show America About Future Conflicts

Key point: A report shows what America’s own forces can learn. It appears that even a high-tech nation may be forced to send ground troops into a costly land war.

What can the U.S. military learn from Israeli military operations in Gaza a few years back?

Plenty—and yet not much, according to a new study by RAND Corporation, which examined Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

For starters, smart weapons are no panacea. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attempted to destroy Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels with airpower alone (surprising in light of the failure of such an approach in the 2006 Lebanon War). Lack of success meant ground troops had to be sent in.

The failure of airpower meant the revival of artillery. The IDF barely used artillery in 2009, but used lots of big guns in 2014. “On a technical and tactical level, the IDF’s use of artillery support was impressive,” RAND noted. “It increased its use of precision artillery from earlier campaigns and reduced the minimum safe distances for providing fire support. Artillery fire often proved quicker and more responsive than other means of firepower, such as CAS [close air support].”

Armor also proved its worth in Gaza. “Before Protective Edge, the IDF invested in intelligence and airpower, often at the expense of particularly heavy armor,” RAND found. Or as Israeli sources told RAND, “Half a year before, they closed the Namer [a tank converted into a troop carrier] and we said it was a mistake; and immediately after, they reopened the project. You need protection. Mobility is protection.”

In turn, armor needs active protection systems. “there was near—universal consensus among IDF officers and outside analysts interviewed for this report that vehicles equipped with the Trophy system stood a better chance of surviving not only RPG fire, but also the Kornet ATGM [anti-tank guided missile],” RAND found. “Indeed, according to some accounts, there were at least 15 instances of active protection systems intercepting Kornet-style missiles.” Another unexpected benefit was that the sensors on the Trophy also proved useful in detecting the location of hostile fire.

However, neither smart weapons nor artillery can stop that most formidable of twenty-first century weapons: lawfare, or the use of international law and public opinion to stymie an adversary’s superior firepower. Under intense media scrutiny, the IDF grappled with how to destroy rocket launchers that Hamas had emplaced in densely populated civilian areas. To its credit, Israel tried a variety of means to avoid civilian casualties, including calling residents on their phones to evacuate, social media and the memorable “door knocker” inert bombs landing on roofs as a signal to get out of the target zone. Lawyers even reviewed targeting decisions, and yet Israeli still suffered a public relations disaster, including public and UN accusations of war crimes. Now the IDF General Staff is adding a lawfare section. “For better or worse, lawfare is here to stay, and the IDF— like all Western militaries—will have to wrestle with its implications in any future operation,” RAND concludes.

RAND concludes that at the tactical level, the IDF’s experience in Gaza offers limited lessons for the United States. The IDF is a smaller force from a smaller nation that can more quickly mobilize and dispatch reserve troops fighting close to their homes, which also makes logistics easier. The IDF is also organized as pure brigades of armor and infantry, rather than combined-arms formations (though Israeli commanders would like to use the U.S. joint force approach, RAND noted).

But on the broader level, the United States and Israel confront similar challenges. Both face hybrid warfare against quasimilitary opponents operating amid dense civilian populations. And most importantly, both are sensitive to taking casualties. In that sense, one finding of the study is particularly significant: “In the end, the Israeli public tolerated military casualties, provided the IDF achieved tangible results. As one senior Israeli policy maker noted, ‘Israel needs to feel it achieved something, and then the public won’t care about the Israeli casualties. It very much depends on the results of the operation.’”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in 2017 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Accelerating Towards the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

Why Pakistan’s proxy war will now intensify

The Pakistan army has been most confident of the sub-conventional or covert war dimension of its strategy and will continue its strong reliance on that. Another dimension of cyber war and propaganda is being strengthened now. Perception management has remained an integral part of its strategy not only against India but also towards its own people to garner legitimacy for the army’s overpowering stature and unreasonable actions.

The Pakistan army has been most confident of the sub-conventional or covert war dimension of its strategy and will continue its strong reliance on that. Another dimension of cyber war and propaganda is being strengthened now. Perception management has remained an integral part of its strategy not only against India but also towards its own people to garner legitimacy for the army’s overpowering stature and unreasonable actions.

Shalini Chawla

Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies

While the world is engrossed in its fight against the global pandemic, Pakistan’s strategic assets do find this period as the optimal time to intensify its covert war strategy of ‘bleed India’. On May 3, in an overnight operation at Handwara in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian security establishment lost five personnel fighting the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. One of the two terrorists killed in the operation is identified as a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander, Haider, a Pakistani national. Reportedly, 25-30 terrorists have crossed the LoC and infiltrated into the Valley in April.

Pakistan-based terrorist groups have been upping their ante and in October last year, an unknown organisation in Kashmir, The Resistance Front (TRF), which is reportedly a front of Pak-sponsored LeT, made its debut in the competitive world of terrorism, and conducted a grenade attack at a street market in Srinagar city, wounding a few vendors. TRF has an active online presence and has conducted a series of attacks targeting the Indian forces. Pakistan has been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list and under international pressure to act and curb terror financing channels. Thus, a need to have a new brand in the name of resistance and human rights was felt strongly by Islamabad to conduct and intensify the sub-conventional war in the Valley.

The terror attack is painful and frustrating but not surprising, given Pakistan’s long commitment to the sub-conventional war, and critical developments in the recent past. Pakistan has been exasperated after the revocation of Article 370 in the Valley. Pakistan’s much-expected anguish, reflected in its series of hate tweets, intense propaganda against the Modi government, claiming it as a government run on Nazi ideology, and intensified diplomatic offensive, highlighting the Kashmir issue at every possible international forum.

Imran Khan, who is in sync with the deep state’s strategic objectives and owes his victory in the 2018 elections to the Army chief, General Bajwa, has been highlighting purported Islamophobia — starting in his UN General Assembly speech in September 2019 — in an aggressive attempt to unite the Muslim states against India (for Kashmir). Pakistan’s all-weather ally China has been a supporter of Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and Beijing facilitated raising the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council a multiple times. The threat of a nuclear war has also been repeatedly highlighted by Pakistan to attract the much-desired international attention on Kashmir in the last one year.

Pakistan’s efforts to intensify militancy in the Valley at this point are primarily due to four factors: n Conventional offensive is not feasible for Pakistan currently due to its mounting economic stress and now additional stress of the Covid crisis; n The US-Taliban agreement signed on February 29 has boosted Pakistan’s faith in the covert war strategy it pursued against Afghanistan. Pakistan has been acknowledged by Washington as a facilitator of the agreement and the Pakistan military is cherishing diplomatic dividends as well as Pentagon’s moderately altered stance towards Pakistan; n The Afghan Taliban, an ally of Pakistan, has gained legitimacy and strength in Kabul. This conveniently caters to Pakistan’s desire of gaining strategic depth and seeking control over Kabul, which would facilitate its designs against New Delhi; and n Pakistan got a four-month reprieve for meeting the FATF deadline to stop financing of terrorist groups. Islamabad feels it has the time and space to conduct militancy against India without the pressure of being questioned in the FATF (at least not too soon!). Traditionally, Pakistan has been following a three-dimensional strategy against India:

Conventional level: Pakistan has tried hard to attain parity with India in terms of its military build-up. The military leadership in Pakistan has focused primarily on defence build-up and modernisation, highlighting the strategic threats in the region.

Sub-conventional level: Pakistan opted for the covert war option in 1947, when it launched its first aggression in the name of tribal revolt. The Pakistan military has pursued a covert war strategy with persistence over the last seven decades, although its tactics have been modified and have evolved. All the three wars initiated by Pakistan have been started in a covert manner.

Nuclear level: Nuclear weapons are perceived as providing a foolproof guarantee of its sovereignty and survivability against India. After the acquisition of nuclear weapons (in 1987), Pakistan is more confident of its strategy of ‘offensive-defence’. Nuclear weapons have been used as an umbrella by the Pakistani leadership to pursue terrorism as a foreign policy tool. The belief in the nuclear weapons has grown with its adoption of the ‘first use’ doctrine and, projection of a low nuclear threshold. The Balakot strikes did challenge Islamabad’s nuclear posture to some extent.

It is pertinent to ask how this strategy towards India will evolve in the coming time. The Pakistan army has been most confident of the sub-conventional or covert war dimension of its strategy and will continue its strong reliance on that.

A fourth dimension of cyber war and propaganda is being strengthened and intensified now.

Cyber war and propaganda: Pakistan has intensified the propaganda war, which is a low-cost option and is felt to be a potent weapon to shape its anti-India narrative. Perception management has remained an integral part of the military’s strategy not only against India, and Afghanistan, but also within the state towards its own people to garner support and legitimacy for the army’s overpowering stature and unreasonable actions. While Imran Khan used the social media for his anti-Modi agenda after Balakot strikes and then after revocation of Article 370, official reports suggest 7,000 accounts on social media are being operated from Pakistan for a campaign aimed at influencing New Delhi’s relations with Gulf countries.

While Islamabad’s denial for its role in the proxy war is expected, its revised strategy against India aims at intensifying militancy in the Valley— under a new brand — and launching an aggressive cyber war to intensify propaganda and highlight Islamophobia.

The End of the SMART Nuclear Deal (Rev 16)

Does SMART Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty Between US and Russia Have a Future?

May 9, 2020 Christina Kitova

• The Smart Treaty expires in 2021.

• There is a provision for an extention until 2026.

• The US believes a new class of Russian weapons should be included in the SMART treaty.

US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, stated that the strategic treaty with Russia should include new weapons systems. Trump appointed Billingslea on April 10 as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control. In this role, Billingslea will lead arms control negotiations on behalf of the US government. Previously, he served as the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the United States Department of the Treasury.

Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Marshall Bellingslea.

In his recent Washington Times interview Billingslea said, “They have no money for this, to be honest, their economy is in ruins due to the outbreak of the virus, and their entire budget process depends on high oil prices, which they do not have and will not have in the foreseeable future. We are not going to concede anything to exclude these weapons systems (from the Treaty). They need to paint and throw out these (five new) programs.”

In reality, Russian systems have lower costs than US defense systems. Also, given Vladimir Putin’s personal desires, he will not his decrease defense budget and will continue with his strategic plan.

The above quote was pertaining to the two missiles that cover the start-3 conditions:

•  Sarmat Intercontinental missile system, which Russia plans to add to its arsenal in 2021. At this time, Russia is still testing the system. The RS-28 Sarmat (NATO classification Satan-2) is a Russian fifth-generation mine-based strategic missile system with a heavy multistage liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The development of a new-generation ICBM was initiated for two reasons: obsolescence of the R-36M Voevoda ICBM and weak means of overcoming modern missile defense.

• Avangard supersonic complex. According to recent statements, the Avangard glider can reach speeds of up to M=27 in flight. It carries a special warhead and is capable of delivering it over an intercontinental range. A planned flight with the ability to perform maneuvers makes it impossible to effectively intercept using existing air defense and missile defense systems. At the same time, it increases the accuracy of hitting targets.

Additionally, three complexes that do not fall under start-3:

• Kinzhal hypersonic missile system. The Kinzhal hypersonic aviation missile system  is designed for high-precision strikes against moving surface and stationary ground targets. It includes a high-speed carrier aircraft and an x-47 M2 aeroballistic missile.

• Burevesnik prospective Intercontinental cruise missile. Burevestnik” is an EAD with a compact nuclear reactor-created thanks to modern Russian technologies, which allows the cruise missile to fly indefinitely at subsonic speed for any distance.

• Poseidon underwater unmanned vehicle with the possibility of being equipped with nuclear weapons. It can travel at a speed of more than 200 km/h. Poseidon has the depth and capabilities of underwater maneuvering. It is able to perform combat movement and maneuvering at depths of up to 1,000 meters. Poseidon has a unique maneuverability thanks to the latest technologies for controlling movement modes. This is due to the use of electromagnetic principles of operation of a nuclear installation; the transition from passive mode (for example, stealthy silent movement, up to 50 km/h) to combat attacking or evading enemy torpedoes (more than 200 km/h) takes no more than 1 minute.

Burevesnik Missile Infographic.

Billingslea did not answer the important question about if in fact Trump has decided to extend the START treaty. He believes that Russia should convince the US why it is important to extend the treaty. As it stands START will expire on February 5, 2021.

START is the treaty between the US and Russia on the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. The points included in the Treaty: Intercontinental ballistic missiles, Submarine ballistic missiles, and Heavy bombers. The SMART treaty does include a provision for extension for 5 years, so it could stay in force until 2026.

Previously, the US has withdrawn from the INF, hence START is the only strategic treaty left between the US and Russia.

It is highly likely the negotiations will fail and the last treaty will expire. At this time, one of the key issues remaining is China. From a geopolitical prospective, a lot depends on the Kremlin’s position pertaining to China.

China is Begging for a Bigger Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Beijing Media Calls for Quadrupling China’s Nuclear Weapons as US Continues Encirclement

19:22 GMT 08.05.2020

In a Friday op-ed, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin called for China to quadruple its nuclear weapons stockpile from 260 to 1,000 weapons amid unprecedented pressure by the United States. In recent years, Washington has declared reversing China’s rise and undermining the Chinese Communist Party its primary geostrategic goals. Was sea

‘Peaceful Coexistence Cannot be Begged For’

“China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time,” Hu wrote in a Friday op-ed in the Global Times. “It needs to have at least 100 Dongfeng-41 strategic missiles. We are a peace-loving nation and have committed to never being the first to use nuclear weapons, but we need a larger nuclear arsenal to curb US strategic ambitions and impulses toward China.”

The journalist urged Beijing not to be indifferent toward the strategic value of simply possessing nuclear bombs, which can serve as deterrents. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the People’s Republic of China has 260 nuclear weapons.

© PHOTO : YOUTUBE/ 自由の声4

DF-41 ICBM

“Don’t be naïve. Don’t assume that nuclear warheads are useless. In fact, they are being used every day as a deterrent to shape the attitudes of US elites toward China. Some Chinese experts say we don’t need more nuclear weapons, I think they are as naïve as children,” Hu said.

Hu urged that contrary to critics of his suggestion, the label of “warmonger” should instead be applied to US politicians “who are openly hostile to China.”

“Peaceful coexistence between the two countries is not a thing that can be begged for; it’s shaped by strategic tools. This is particularly true as we are facing an increasingly irrational US, which only believes in strength. We don’t have much time debating the need for increased nuclear warheads, we just need to accelerate the steps that make it happen,” Hu said.

US Aims to Hem China In

Hu’s words come as the US moves to station missiles and bombers just off the East Asian coast, near a string of islands Beijing calls the First Island Chain. The formation includes not only hotly contested Taiwan and nearby islands, but also Japan, Borneo, the Philippines, and Kuril Islands.

In March, the US Marine Corps pitched a reprioritization toward long-range missiles to the Senate Armed Services Committee, with the intention of combining them with rapidly deployed expeditionary forces to set up “no-go zones” on islands early in a military campaign against China.

“A ground-based anti-ship missile capability will provide anti-ship fires from land as part of an integrated naval anti-surface warfare campaign,” the Corps said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by Defense News. “This forward-deployed and survivable capability will enhance the lethality of our naval forces and will help to deny our adversaries the use of key maritime terrain.”

While some of those weapons include anti-ship missiles launched by air and sea, they also include a new development of the Tomahawk cruise missiles modified for surface launch, which have a roughly 1,000-mile range and would be fired by the Aegis Ashore radar system. The land-based “Maritime Strike Tomahawk” isn’t expected to be operational until 2023, but Russia especially has expressed ire at the mere development of the weapon.

© PHOTO : US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE//SCOTT HOWE

Defense Department conducts a flight test of a ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California, 18 August 2019

However, one of the Aegis Ashore sites intended for construction in the Japanese city of Akita was dropped by the Defense Ministry on Wednesday due to heavy opposition by locals, according to Kyodo News Agency. It’s unclear when Tokyo will select another site or where that will be.

Until last August, such ground-based missiles were banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty the US signed with Russia, but within weeks of that treaty being allowed to lapse by Washington, the Pentagon was testing missiles that violated the treaty’s prescriptions.

This is in line with the Pentagon’s conclusions in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which argued the rise of China and return of Russia as world powers capable of challenging American hegemony heralded a “return to Great Power competition.”

The INF Treaty was drawn up in 1987 to address the severe danger of war created by the US basing Pershing II intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe with the ability to reach Moscow in just six to eight minutes. With such little time to react, the possibility of misreading a false alarm and ordering a nuclear response was palpable – as very nearly happened during the hyper-realistic Able Archer NATO war games in 1983.

The basing of such missiles close to China revives this eminent danger.

‘Peace on More Favorable Terms’

Chinese military experts quoted in another article by the Global Times on Friday noted that US policy toward nuclear weapons differs greatly from China’s. While Beijing has just a few hundred weapons and maintains a “no first use” pledge, Washington has more than 5,000 nuclear weapons and has never held to that logic. Indeed, the US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in war, when it killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

But more than that, the Trump administration has developed a new type of nuclear weapon with a smaller explosive yield, the W76-2, which nuclear deterrence scholar Andrew Facini called in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a “low-yield, high risk” device.

Last June, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff accidentally published an unclassified document that made the case for using nuclear weapons in an otherwise-conventional war if they “could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.”

“Employment of nuclear weapons can radically alter or accelerate the course of a campaign,” the military leaders argued. “A nuclear weapon could be brought into the campaign as a result of perceived failure in a conventional campaign, potential loss of control or regime, or to escalate the conflict to sue for peace on more-favorable terms. The potential consequences of using nuclear weapons will greatly influence military operations and vastly increase the complexity of the operational environment.”

Chasing the Nuclear Triad

“The complete development of a nuclear triad – nuclear weapon launch capabilities from sea, land and air – is necessary for China as the US’ strategic weapons are a threat to China, and China needs to continuously upgrade its nuclear arsenal,” the Global Times paraphrased Chinese military expert Song Zhongping as saying.

SPUTNIK

An oblique image of China’s Xian H-6N bomber carrying an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) in “Modern Ships” magazine

The ability to guarantee a nuclear response strike by land, air and sea is held by only a handful of nations: the US, Russia and India. However, in recent years China has made headway toward the achievement, which promises an effective deterrent to an attempted nuclear decapitation strike.

On the one hand, the modification of a DF-15 ballistic missile into an air-launched version capable of being fired by a Xi’an H-6N bomber would give Beijing a third – if unconventional – method of nuclear reach. However, a more typical air delivery could also come via the H-20 stealth bomber, which Sputnik reported could debut at the Zhuhai Air Show later this year. China already possesses submarine-launched ballistic missiles and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the other two arms of the triad.

The Nations Trample Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Hamas reveals the hidden aspects of its relations with Saudi Arabia

‘The arrest of the first Hamas representative in Saudi Arabia, Dr Mohammad Al-Khudari, set a dangerous precedent in political, diplomatic and moral norms, and cannot be tolerated’

Dr Adnan Abu Amer

May 8, 2020 at 11:29 am

Mohammed Nazzal, a member of the Hamas political bureau, revealed for the first time the details of the meeting between the movement’s leaders and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in 2015. He also revealed that the previous two Saudi monarchs donated millions of riyals to the movement, and that it continues its communications with Saudi Arabia to release dozens of its members detained since April 2019.

On 22 April, Nazzal, the movement’s vice president abroad, revealed the details of a previous meeting that brought together the leaders of the movement, led by Khaled Meshaal, the former head of its political bureau and Bin Salman in April 2015. This meeting resulted in the release of the movement’s leader in Saudi Arabia and its former financial manager, Maher Salah, after being arrested for several months for allegedly transferring money from the kingdom abroad.

Nazzal confirmed during an interview with Al-Sharq satellite channel, which is opposed to the Egyptian regime and airs from Turkey, that he had personally met with the late Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz and Prince Turki Bin Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence, without specifying a date.

Nazzal added that the late Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz donated $1.3 million to Hamas in 1998 and that the previous Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz donated $2.6 million during the movement’s leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s visit to the kingdom, after his release from Israeli prisons.

A high-ranking source in the Hamas movement, who remained anonymous, told Middle East Monitor that: “The movement does not usually reveal the sources of the donations it receives, neither on the level of countries, organisations or individuals, and it is perhaps the first time that it discloses its sources, and identifies the names of those who have donated to it.”

He added that: “The recent disclosure of the movement’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, whether in terms of its meetings with the political leaders in the kingdom or obtaining financial donations, is to be fair to the historical political leadership in Saudi Arabia, which was a major and constant supporter of the Palestinian cause and Hamas. It is also an expression of astonishment at the new position adopted by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and his Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman regarding the Palestinian issue in general, and Hamas in particular, by mentioning the positions of their predecessors, who were providing political, moral and financial support to Hamas.”

It is worth noting that the arrest of the first Hamas representative in Saudi Arabia, Dr Mohammad Al-Khudari, set a dangerous precedent in political, diplomatic and moral norms, and cannot be tolerated. Accusing him of belonging to a “terrorist” entity and providing financial support to it is quite ironic, as Al-Khudari was chosen to represent the movement in Saudi Arabia based on an understanding with Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the head of the General Intelligence Service at that time, and there is record of this since 1993. Al-Khudari remained in this role for over 15 years, collecting donations in sight of the official Saudi authorities, and has always coordinated with the head of the file in the General Intelligence Service, Major General Mohammed Saeed Al-Ghamdi.

It is clear that Hamas was forced to later gradually disclose some details of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, based on the injustice it is suffering and due to the known implications of the relationship with Hamas. What was revealed were only some, not all, of the donations made by Saudi leaders and they are considered a positive point in favour of the kingdom. It actually does justice to the country.

Middle East Monitor learned from senior members of Hamas that: “We can say with great confidence that there is nothing new in terms of mediation between the kingdom and Hamas, and that the resumption of the relationship does not require mediators, but rather requires political will from the Saudi side. This is because there is political will on Hamas’s end and it has not stopped seeking the best form of relationship with Saudi Arabia, based on its understanding and awareness of the strategic importance of this relationship, both to the Palestinian issue and the Arab national security, of which Saudi Arabia is an integral part.”

Prior to the current disagreement between Hamas and Saudi Arabia, the latter has always made room for fundraising for the movement in the country. Ever year during Ramadan, the movement’s leaders visited the kingdom, hosted in an official capacity, and met with senior officials. However, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Hamas has witnessed tension closer to estrangement after the arrest of Al-Khudari and 60 other supporters in March 2020, accused by the Saudi judiciary of belonging to a “terrorist” entity.

We could say that there are three reasons behind Nazzal’s statements. The first of which is Hamas’s attempt to pressure Saudi Arabia regarding the movement’s detainees. The second, is that it is an occasion to remind the current Saudi regime of the historical relations that linked the movement to the kingdom in previous times, in order to contribute to the release of detainees, especially the elderly and leaders, even though the mediations to resolve the issue are still ongoing. The third reason, is the absence of any influential voice within the kingdom demanding their release.

Before Nazzal’s latest statements, Hamas’s relationship with Saudi Arabia reached a qualitative level of tension after the initiative by Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis in Yemen, loyal to Iran, on 26 March, to release two Saudi pilots held in exchange for the release of Hamas detainees in the kingdom. Hamas welcomed the initiative, while Riyadh remained silent.

The movement confirms that its relations with Saudi Arabia have always proceeded in an official manner and that all its actions are legal in accordance with Saudi law. Hamas has not taken any action within Saudi Arabia that is not within a specific context to serve the Palestinian cause, and continues its contact with more than one party to secure the release of its detainees there. The movement also notes that Nazzal’s statements were made to clarify facts, not to embarrass any party.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Hamas can be described as complex and witnesses ups and downs, despite reaching a difficult level of escalation after the kingdom’s arrest of Hamas’s cadres in 2019. It seems that Nazzal’s revelation of new information regarding the kingdom’s donations to the movement was preceded by the attempts of many parties to mediate and find a discreet solution to the issue of its prisoners and keenness not to reveal the crisis to the public. However, all initiatives and mediations were unsuccessful, which created frustration with Hamas, prompting it to disclose the information that it did.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Hamas is defined as historical and solid, but the latest stage of these relations witnessed tension, reaching the point of estrangement and describing the movement as a terrorist organisation. This may be due to the US-Israeli positions hostile to Hamas, but because Saudi Arabia is a central state in the region, and Hamas is an active element within it, this requires the kingdom to be open to all Palestinian components. This will help it implement its strategy to expand its influence in the region. As for the Saudi falling-out with Hamas, it does not serve its foreign policy.

Nazzal’s statements can also be interpreted as an expression of closing the doors with Saudi Arabia, and confining the problem with Hamas’s relationship with the current regime represented by King Salman and his crown prince, Mohammed, and not with the kingdom in general. In doing so, the crisis is contained with a specific party inside the kingdom, and not with them all.

The motives behind Nazzal’s statements, on which a Saudi comment was not issued, lie in the fact that they are a response to Riyadh’s rejection of any mediation the movement sends to release its detainees, which made it praise the former Saudi kings, and criticises the policy of the current king and his son, the crown prince. The frustrated statements from the kingdom may complicate the crisis between the two sides, not resolve it, given the policy of stubbornness and inflexibility adopted by the current Saudi leadership towards the movement.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow

Despite U.S. Sanctions, Iran Expands Its Nuclear Stockpile

Two years after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has cut in half the time it would need to produce enough weapons-grade fuel for a nuclear bomb.

Colum LynchMay 8, 2020, 2:21 PM

An International Atomic Energy Agency inspector visits the Natanz enrichment facility, south of Tehran, on Jan. 20, 2014. Kazem Ghane/AFP via Getty Images

Two years after President Donald Trump announced the U.S withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has resumed its enrichment of uranium, restarted research and development on advanced centrifuges, and expanded its stockpile of nuclear fuel, cutting in half the time it would need to produce enough weapons-grade fuel to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran is manifestly closer to being able to produce a nuclear weapon than they were two years ago,” said Richard Nephew, who participated in negotiations on the landmark nuclear deal in 2015.

While there is no evidence Tehran is preparing a dash for a nuclear weapon, the Iranian advances raise questions about the success of the White House’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign, which is aimed at forcing Iran through the imposition of ever more stringent sanctions to accept greater constraints on its political and military support for regional militias and the development of its ballistic missile program.

The effort—which has severely damaged Iran’s economy—has yet to temper Iran’s nuclear ambitions, instead prompting Tehran to resume nuclear activities prohibited by the nuclear pact, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. It has also eroded Washington’s credibility even among many of its traditional allies and placed increasing strains on America’s diplomatic partnerships.

This month, the U.S. State Department publicly unveiled a diplomatic effort to secure a tangible result from its pressure campaign in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election—an agreement by the U.N. Security Council to extend a conventional arms embargo that is scheduled to expire on Oct. 18, just weeks before the election. Back in February, the United States privately circulated elements of a draft Security Council resolution extending the arms embargo to Britain, France, and Germany, hoping to rally support for the initiative.

The United States received a chilly response from the Europeans, who argued that the resolution was all but certain to be vetoed by China and Russia, which plan to sell arms to Iran once the embargo expires. The Europeans say they share Washington’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its support for proxies, including Hezbollah and other militias spread across the Middle East. But they fault Washington with undermining a landmark nuclear pact that enjoyed broad international support and which they believed had succeeded in constraining Tehran’s nuclear program, until the United States ditched it.

Last week, Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, warned that if the council failed to agree to extend the embargo, Washington could deliver a potentially lethal blow to the nuclear agreement by triggering a provision that would allow any of the initial seven signatories to reimpose—or snap back—all Iran sanctions, including the conventional arms embargo, that were in force before the nuclear pact was concluded. Iran has warned that if the sanctions are reimposed, it will likely pull out of the nuclear pact, end international inspections of its nuclear energy program, and withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum at the White House in Washington that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Such a move by Washington would raise complex political, diplomatic, and legal questions about whether the United States, which withdrew its participation in the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, has the legal right or the moral authority to trigger the snapback provision. Under the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal, any participant in the nuclear pact has the right to single-handedly snap back the previous sanctions. Trump administration officials contend that while the United States is no longer a participant in the nuclear deal, it still retains all the rights of a participant under the resolution, which has never been overturned. And they intend to exercise that right if they don’t get their way.

“There is no qualification in 2231 where ‘participant’ is defined in a way to require participation in the JCPOA. And if the drafters wanted to make the qualification, they could have, but they did not,” Hook told reporters on April 30. “This is the plain reading of the text.”

“The arms embargo must be renewed, and we will exercise all diplomatic options to accomplish that,” Hook said. “We have a policy goal of renewing the arms embargo, and that’s where our focus is. We’re hopeful that we’ll succeed.”

John Bellinger III, who served as the principal legal advisor to the National Security Council and the State Department during the George W. Bush administration, said the United States can make a credible legal case for reimposing sanctions but that the outcome could prove self-defeating.

“The U.S. has the right to trigger snapback, but they may ultimately not be effective in achieving what they want to achieve,” he said, warning that states may be disinclined to observe such sanctions. “There is a real risk it could backfire if the other countries are unwilling to go along. If you try to lead but no one will follow, you have not been successful, and the U.S. will have fractured the Security Council.”

“If you try to lead but no one will follow, you have not been successful, and the U.S. will have fractured the Security Council.”

“I suspect, at the end of the day, the Security Council will be forced on a purely legal basis to conclude we have the right to submit the resolution [triggering snapback],” Nephew said. “The debate will split the council as a point of fact because you will have the French, Brits, and Germans screaming that we are not doing this in good faith and the Russians and the Chinese will lose their minds on this.” The practical outcome of this approach, he said, is that the Chinese and Russians will cry foul and declare the action illegitimate. “I have no doubt they will sell arms and will do so immediately. Those tanks that [U.S. Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo is so concerned about could be put on the next boat.”

European officials have fumed in private over the latest U.S. threat, which they suspect is designed to kill off the nuclear pact. They view Washington’s legalistic approach as inconsistent and hypocritical, noting that the very resolution being invoked by the United States to reimpose sanctions also calls on states to support the implementation of the nuclear pact. One senior European official also pointed out that a key provision in the U.N. Charter, Article 25, states that “the Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter”—a provision that the United States has ignored.

The U.S. strategy is “legally and politically obscene,” a U.N.-based diplomat privately told the International Crisis Group.

Russia has said publicly what some of its European partners are saying privately.

The U.S. strategy is “legally and politically obscene,” a U.N.-based diplomat privately told the International Crisis Group.

“Their reasoning is ludicrous, of course,” Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna, said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant published on April 28. “It is common knowledge that Washington officially announced its withdrawal from the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018.”

Theoretically, an attempt of this sort is possible, but it will make the U.S. appear in an extremely unattractive light,” he added. “I don’t think that the U.N. Security Council members would be ready to support the U.S. bid to remain a JCPOA participant. It is clear to everybody that this is preposterous. … The attempt to implement this plan will cause a lot of harm and lead to stormy debates in the U.N. Security Council.”

Democratic lawmakers who supported the JCPOA chided the administration for withdrawing from it in the first place and then later trying to use the deal to advance its goals. “They’re trying to have it both ways,” one Democratic congressional aide said.

Nevertheless, a bipartisan majority in Congress—including some of Trump’s most stalwart critics on the left—supports extending the Iran arms embargo. Hundreds of House lawmakers from both sides signed on to a letter to Pompeo last month urging an extension of the ban. “[W]e are concerned that the ban’s expiration will lead to more states buying and selling weapons to and from Iran. … This could have disastrous consequences for U.S. national security and our regional allies,” read the letter, which was organized by Reps. Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul, the chairman and the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively.

“It’s now just several months out where China, Russia, other countries from around the world can all sell significant conventional weapons systems to the Iranians in October of this year,” Pompeo told reporters in a briefing last week. “This isn’t far off. This isn’t some fantasy by conservatives. This is a reality.”

On the eve of renewed sanctions by Washington, Iranian protesters demonstate outside the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 2018. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Pharmaceutical factory workers work in the bioreactor room at the Actoverco plant in Karaj, Iran, on Feb. 18, where workers face the difficult task of producing cancer drugs despite equipment shortages caused by U.S. sanctions. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

The 2015 Iran nuclear pact—the culmination of more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program—offered Tehran an end to crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear activities and undertaking a set of verifiable commitments to assure the world it was not building nuclear weapons. It was signed by representatives of Britain, China, the European Union, Iran, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.

Trump derided the nuclear pact—a signature foreign-policy achievement for President Barack Obama—as a flawed agreement that gave Iran access to billions of dollars that have since been used to fund Iranian-backed militias and to advance a ballistic missile program that could improve Iran’s ability in the future to deliver a nuclear payload. On May 8, 2018, Trump formally withdrew from the agreement and began a process of imposing a range of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Despite European government efforts to circumvent those sanctions, European businesses have largely observed the U.S. measures, fearing their companies could be penalized and denied access to U.S. consumer financial markets.

Iran has insisted for years that it has never had any desire to build nuclear weapons, but U.S. and other intelligence agencies have long contended that Tehran had been secretly developing nuclear weapons for years. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that it had been working on a nuclear weapon design until at least 2009. But the IAEA also claimed that Iran had stopped its design work and was in compliance with its obligations under the nuclear pact until the United States reneged on the deal.

Iran subsequently stepped up activities at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities, increasing stores of a more purified grade of uranium that could bring it close to producing weapons-grade fuel.

A year after the United States withdrew from the pact, Tehran began a process of violating its own commitments under the pact, announcing on May 8, 2019, that it would no longer be bound by limits on the size of its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Iran subsequently stepped up activities at the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities, increasing stores of a more purified grade of uranium that could bring it close to producing weapons-grade fuel. Iran also restarted prohibited research and development work on advanced centrifuges, which would enable the country to purify its uranium at a greater speed.

Under the terms of the nuclear pact, Iran is permitted to stockpile up to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, far short of the estimated 1,050 kilograms required to produce enough weapons-grade fuel for a single bomb. But in March, the IAEA reported that Iran had produced 1,021 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, making it all but certain it has enough raw uranium to build a bomb. If Iran decided to pursue a nuclear weapon, according to Nephew, the larger stockpile would cut down its so-called breakout time—the time it would take to convert the low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade fuel—from 12 months to about six months.

But some arms control experts cautioned that Iran would still need to overcome considerable technical hurdles to weaponize and deploy a nuclear weapon. They suspect that Iran’s violations have been carefully calibrated to apply pressure on the other signatories of the nuclear pact to ease sanctions on Iran.

The Iranians’ “actions and statements indicate they are not racing to build a nuclear weapon or amass material for a nuclear weapon,” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “They are retaliating in a measured way to the U.S. reimposition of sanctions, and they have threatened to go further if the situation continues indefinitely.”

“They are retaliating in a measured way to the U.S. reimposition of sanctions, and they have threatened to go further if the situation continues indefinitely.”

In January, after Iran rejected any constraints on its enrichment of uranium, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany called out Iran for violating the terms of the nuclear pact and jointly triggered a so-called dispute settlement mechanism to press Tehran to come back into compliance or face the prospect of the Europeans declaring it in breach of its obligations—an action that would lead to the reimposition of sanctions. But the Europeans also faulted the United States for withdrawing from the nuclear accord and expressed their hopes that the initiative would compel Iran to reverse course.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at the time that the Europeans “could no longer leave the growing Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement unanswered.”

“Our goal is clear,” he said. “We want to preserve the accord and come to a diplomatic solution within the agreement.”

Richard Gowan, the U.N. director at the International Crisis Group, said Washington’s threat to trigger the snapback may be designed to “scare the Europeans into backing alternative ways to keep the arms embargo alive.”

Gowan said European diplomats had suspected that the United States might try to convince Britain to break with its European partners, declare Tehran in breach of its obligations, and trigger the snapback provision. “The fact the U.S. is making the case that it can still do snapback itself implies that the British option may not be available.”

“I am not sure there is a compromise available,” he added, noting that the Europeans may be paying as much attention as Trump to the U.S. election calendar. “The higher the chances of [Joe] Biden victory in November, the less likely the E3 [the three European signatories to the nuclear pact] will be to buy a U.S. snapback drive.”

Foreign Policy staff writer Robbie Gramer contributed to this report.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch