Columbia University Warns Of Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study

A study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.

Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New Yorkcompared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.

The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”

Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.

One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.

The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.

“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”

The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.

Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”

The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.

The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.

Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.

“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”

New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:

Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.

Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.

New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.

Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered  in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.

The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.

Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.

Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.

In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.

Pakistan Tries to Illegally Acquire Nukes

The report by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg states that Germany is an important area of operation for Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Syria for securing relevant know-how through illegal procurement from the country

The German state government has lambasted Pakistan for its proliferation record of nuclear weapons. Expressing its concern over the same, a report by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg highlights that Pakistan continues to engage in the production and proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

It further enunciates that the country is also trying to secure relevant know-how through illegal procurement from Germany.

The report, which chronicles annual key developments on proliferation was released on June 16, 2020.

Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Syria are still pursuing such efforts. They aim to complete existing arsenals, perfect the range, deployability and effectiveness of their weapons and develop new weapons systems. They are trying to obtain the necessary products and relevant no-how, inter alia, through illegal procurement efforts in Germany,” according to the annual report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution for Baden-Wuttemberg.

Pakistan has been subject to a lot of scrutiny for its nuclear proliferation record. In 2004, the country’s nuclear architect AQ Khan admitted to being a party in global proliferation, including providing designs to countries like North Korea.

The report added that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is directed against its sworn enemy India.

It underlined that to bypass existing export curbs and embargoes, the countries referred to in the report, have created new procurement ways and means.

Under these approaches, they can acquire goods in Germany and Europe with the help of “cover companies and, in particular, transport dual-use goods to risk states. Typical bypass countries include the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China.”

The report further explains how “production and proliferation” of weapons of mass destruction pose a “serious threat to peace and international security” and the establishments need to set goals for preventing risk states from building and developing weapons of mass destruction and corresponding carrier systems.

“In order to minimize risks, the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution sensitises those responsible there to make them aware of the danger and possible consequences of illegal knowledge transfer,” the document underscores.

Potential proliferation sources of know-how, according to the report, comprise universities, non-university research institutions, and research and training departments of companies.

Iraq – the Antichrist Will Fill The Vacuum

Iraq – Who Will Fill The Vacuum?

The nation- wide anti -establishment protests that had started in Iraq in October 2019 have still not abated. The movement has suffered a fracture primarily because of the machinations of Moqtada Al Sadr. When the movement started thousands of his supporters joined the non Sadrist protestors calling for the Prime Minister—-to step down.

But after the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani in early January 2020, possibly sensing an opportunity to increase his influence and power, al Sadr adopted and on again off again approach towards the demonstrations. He first told his supporters to keep away from the anti government protests. Sadr’s followers, who had earlier protected the protestors from the security forces, left the protest camps and targeted the non Sadrists.

The attacks against the non Sadrists even occurred in Najaf the home of Grand Ayatollah Sistani where eight protestors were killed. Sistan in a Friday sermon condemned the security forces for failing to protect the protesters.

Shortly after Sadr told his protestors to rejoin the protestors but to cleanse them of alcohol and other vices. The camps however remained divided with the non Sadrists no longer trusting Moqtada and declaring that he was out to kill them. In Baghdad the two factions who had earlier made Tahrir square a headquarters for the protests were now divided with the Sadrists occupying a Turkish restaurant and manning checkpoints and the other protestors congregating at the Freedom Monument with the Tahrir square becoming the demarcation point.

While Moqtada al Sadr appeared determined to ensure that his political power, within the existing system, increased, the non Sadrists remained determined that they would be content with nothing but the overthrow of the system; that they would not accept any Prime Minister from within the existing elite; and that they wanted an end to the “muhasasa”, the system introduced after the US-led invasion in 2003 that provides proportional government representation to Iraq’s various ethno-sectarian groups.

The latest casualty of their determination and of the self interest of the existing elite in Parliament, was Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the person chosen by President Barham Salih to be the new Prime Minister in place of caretaker PM Mahdi, who had resigned on December 1,2019 after Ayatollah Sistani endorsed the demands of the protestors. A former exile Allawi had joined the secular Iraqiya party- with a membership of Sunnis, Shias, Christians and women- set up by his cousing Iyad Allawi, who was the interim prime minister in 2004. Though the party had few seats in Parliament and despite its secular nature and his endorsement by Sadr and a grouping of Iran-backed parties, the anti-government demonstrators rejected the choice on the grounds that Allawi was too close to the elite that they were trying to get rid of.

In a televised speech after his nomination Allawi said if he won the vote of confidence in Parliament his government’s first act would be to investigate the killing of protesters and bring the perpetrators to justice. He also promised to hold an early election free from “the influence of money, weapons, and foreign interference”. Allawi also planned to have a cabinet of independent individuals and technocrats who could address some of the protestors demands and undertake reforms to end the political crisis—an approach that would adversely affect members of the elite in Parliament.

In discussions with the other parties in Parliament he insisted that he would select his own ministers much to the chagrin of the Kurdish and Sunni parties who voiced threats of a boycott. There was also some concern that his choice of the cabinet had been influenced by Moqtada al-Sadr, whose endorsement of Allawi was coupled with his threat that he would call a “million-strong” rally to pressure parliament to approve Allawi’s cabinet. Despite this Allawi lost the vote of confidence twice and rather than try again resigned on March 1st 2020 leaving a vacuum that the President would have to fill by naming another person –with some observers saying he would like to name intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kazimi.

Caretaker PM Mahdi had been supported by an alliance between rival factions — Saeroon, lead by Moqtada al-Sadr, and Fatah, headed by Hadi al-Ameri. But neither bloc had been able to select a consensus candidate to become the new Prime Minister. Moqtada al Sadr’s endorsement of Allawi came after discussions in Iran where he was studying at Qom. With the death of their mentor, Iranian General Soleimani, there had been dismay and disarray among the Shia militias.

A concerned Iran had turned to its proxy, Lebanon based Hezbollah to manage the Shia militias. Iran and Hezbollah officials instructed pro-Iran militia leaders to put aside their differences with Sadr. The two sides had clashed in parliament in an intra-Shi’ite power struggle. The militia leaders met Moqtada al Sadr and entered into an agreement with him—the price being that he would have the freedom to choose the next government and be able to block the Iran-backed parties’ preferences.

The task of sustaining the morale of the Shias and protecting Iran’s interests was undertaken by Sheikh Mohammad al-Kawtharani, the Hezbollah representative in Iraq, who organized a meeting of the militias and urged them to present a united front in picking a new Iraqi prime minister. Kawtharani had persuaded Moqtada al-Sadr, to support Allawi and Sadr agreed a development welcomed by Iran and accepted by the militia-linked parties it backed.

The assassination of Soleimani and the Iranian retaliation had caused concern among Iraqis that being seen to be adhering to the Iranian agenda could cost their country which could be subjected to US sanctions. This sentiment was particularly noticeable in the youth including Shias. Anti American marches had taken place with the marchers holding signs reading “No America, no Israel, no colonialists”. While the Iraqi Parliament had adopted a non binding resolution calling for the departure of American troops, there was one leader, Masrour Barzani,the President of Iraqi Kurdistan who had been arguing that the Americans needed to find a way to maintain a troop presence in Iraq.

The rationale behind his urging was that the U.S. killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had not affected the group’s ability to operate and that the organization was “regrouping” and mounting attacks in northern and western Iraq. There had been sporadic attacks in Iraq with rockets hitting an Iraqi base in the province of Kirkuk where US troops are stationed and the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. The U.S. State Department said it had designated Ahmad al-Hamidawi Secretary General of Kataib Hezbollah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist , holding the group responsible for the attacks.

So what could be the likely outcome of the current impasse. While the protestors have been demanding a complete reform of the system, the chaos that would be associated with such a strategy would not be to the liking of Ayatollah Sistani who-while not in favour of the Iranian system of clerics interfering in politics- has the clout to call on the protestors to ease up to keep Iraq viable. Iran is quite preoccupied with the coronavirus and its economy while thumbing its nuclear nose at the USA.

The elections have seen the conservatives come to power and they would definitely like their man to succeed the old and ailing Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq-something that they have not been able to do so far. Moqtada al Sadr has been playing all sides—but it is unlikely that he could combine a religious and political role for himself as long as Sistani is alive. But with Sistani’s approval he could suggest a name, unlinked to Iran, not too cosy with America, that could bring all the parties in Parliament on board without overtly threating their space like Allawi would have.

It is now a game of wait and see and it would be at least a month before there is any chance of a new government being established. In most likelihood it will take much longer given the political performance of the past months.

Babylon the Great Sanctions the Iranian Nuclear Horn

US issues Iran arms sanctions ultimatum

‘SNAP BACK’ FUSS: The US secretary of state said that Washington has the ability to put sanctions back in place, but Russia’s envoy said the US had no right to do so


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday threatened to seek to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran if the UN Security Council does not approve a resolution that would indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Tehran, which is set to expire in October.

Pompeo told a news conference at the US Department of State in Washington that without extending the arms embargo, “Iran will be able to purchase advanced weapons systems and become an arms dealer of choice for terrorists and rogue regimes all throughout the world. This is unacceptable.”

He spoke ahead of a closed video briefing to Security Council members on a US draft resolution to maintain the arms embargo by US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft.

Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated since Washington in 2018 withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers and reimposed US sanctions.

A year ago, the US sent thousands more troops, long-range bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to what it called a growing threat of Iranian attacks on US interests in the region.

The five other powers that signed the nuclear deal — Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany — remain committed to it, saying that the agreement is key to continuing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Lifting the arms embargo is part of the 2015 Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear agreement. The council is scheduled to discuss the resolution’s implementation on Tuesday next week.

Calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said that the US focus is to work with the council to pass the resolution.

“But, in the event that doesn’t happen, I would remind the world that the [former US president Barack] Obama administration’s officials said very clearly that the United States has the unilateral ability to snap back sanctions into place,” he said.

The 2015 nuclear deal includes a “snap back” provision that would restore all UN sanctions against Iran that had been lifted or eased if the nuclear deal is violated.

The State Department said that in his briefing, Hook pointed to Iranian arms transfers and “the full range of Iran’s malign activity, including its September 2019 direct attack on Saudi Arabia,” which violate current restrictions.

Drone strikes hit two Saudi Arabian oil installations on Sept. 14, which the US blamed on Iran.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said that Moscow opposes a new arms embargo and has dismissed as “ridiculous” the possibility of Washington using the “snap back” provision.

Nebenzia said that the US pulled out of the agreement and “they have no right” to its provisions.

However, Pompeo and Craft said the resolution makes it clear that the US retains to right to use the “snap back” provision.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow

Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Program Continues Unabated

by Raphael Ofek

An IAEA inspector at an Iranian nuclear facility. Photo: IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General issued a report on June 5 that is worded to deflate Iran’s renunciation of its signing of the JCPOA nuclear agreement. The report notes Tehran’s announcement on January 5 that its nuclear program is no longer “subject to any restrictions in the operational sphere,” but also notes that it claims a willingness to “continue to cooperate with the agency as in the past.”

On June 1, Iran notified the agency that it had decided to stop implementing its commitment to limit centrifuge research and development. The report goes on to detail Tehran’s many deviations from the nuclear agreement, as discovered by the IAEA inspectors. These deviations include the following:

• On July 1, 2019, the agency verified that Iran’s accumulated enriched uranium stock exceeds the allowable amount of 300 kg of UF6 (uranium hexa-fluoride compound used in the uranium enrichment process) enriched to 3.67% (uranium content at 300 kg UF6 is 202.8 kg).

• On July 9, 2019, Iran began enriching uranium up to 4.5%, above the allowable rate of 3.67%.

• On November 6, 2019, Iran began once again to enrich uranium at the Fordow facility using 1,044 IR-1 centrifuges (Iran’s first centrifuge model).

• On May 11, 2020, Iran’s heavy water stockpile reached 132.6 tons. This exceeds the quantity allowed for aggregation (up to 130 tons).

• According to recent IAEA examinations, Iran has developed and manufactured centrifuge components as well as assembled centrifuge cascades in violation of the nuclear agreement.

• On May 20, 2020, the IAEA verified that the enriched uranium stockpile accumulated by Iran had reached a volume of 1,571.6 kg (550.7 kg over the amount found in the previous quarterly report). This quantity included 873.4 kg of enriched uranium to 4.5%, 215.1 kg of uranium enriched at 3.67%, and uranium enriched up to 2% or less. This is a significant breach of the agreement by Iran.

• The most significant deviation from the agreement, which was discovered on June 1, 2020, was the operation at the Natanz enrichment plant of advanced centrifuges developed in Iran for uranium enrichment to 4.5%: 164 IR-2m centrifuges, 164 IR-4 centrifuges, and 164 IR-6 centrifuges. According to a report by the Washington-based Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) of June 8, 2020, which referred to the latest IAEA report, the IR-2m centrifuge enrichment capacity is 3.7 SWU (Separative Work Unit) per year, the estimated capacity of the IR-4 model is about 3.3 SWU/year, and the estimated capacity of the IR-6 centrifuge is 6.8 SWU/year. This can be compared with the first Iranian model, the IR-1, which, based on IAEA reports from the first half of this decade, is about 0.9 SWU/year.

As previously reported in the media, for example in the case of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project (Pakistan, as is well known, has supplied know-how on this topic to Iran in the past), to enrich natural uranium (whose fissile uranium-235 isotope’s concentration is about 0.7%) to 90% (weapons grade), the enrichment process must be performed in four steps. They are enrichment to less than 5%; enrichment of the product obtained from the previous stage to 20%; enrichment to 60%; and finally to 90%. Theoretically, if Iran’s current uranium quantities — one portion enriched to 4.5% (873.4 kg) and the other to 3.67% (215.1 kg) as of May 20 — were subsequently enriched to 20%, 60%, and 90%, the final product would be about 15 kg of uranium enriched to 90%. That is enough to produce one nuclear bomb core.

The enrichment capacity required for this is approximately 2,800 SWU. If we include the IR-1 centrifuges that Iran operates — 5,600 at Natanz and 1,044 at Fordow — Iran’s current enrichment capacity is about 8,240 SWU/year. This implies that within four months, Iran could possibly break out of its commitment to the NPT and enrich the amount of uranium it needs for its first nuclear bomb.

Kazem Garibabadi, Iran’s representative at the IAEA, confirmed the data presented in the IAEA’s latest report. He stressed that while Iran has suspended its 2015 commitments under the JCPOA nuclear agreement, it continues to cooperate with the IAEA in “nuclear verification and monitoring.” As for its decision in January to withdraw from the agreement, Tehran said that was in response to the sanctions imposed on it by the US and a signal to the EU, which it believes has not acted sufficiently to revoke or circumvent those sanctions.

Garibabadi’s comments appeared to reflect his country’s official statement that its nuclear program is “peaceful,” and that its signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement was “voluntary.” He also apparently wanted to send a message to the IAEA member states that Iran’s significant progress in developing its enrichment program is of a civilian nature. Iran’s presentation of itself as a country building a peaceful nuclear program is flatly contradicted by the vast amount of intelligence revealed to date, particularly that gleaned from the “Iran’s Nuclear Archive” operation. That intelligence unequivocally indicated that the program is intended primarily for nuclear weapons production.

According to a March 3 report, the IAEA said it has identified three sites in Iran, undisclosed by the regime, where it may be storing undeclared nuclear materials or carrying out nuclear-related activities. In a statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors on March 9, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi urged Iran to fully cooperate with IAEA inspectors and allow them quick access to the suspected sites. Garibabadi had this to say on the matter: “’Intelligence services’ (of course Western services) fabricated information … [which] creates no obligation for Iran to consider such requests.”

In April, a cyber-attack attributed to Iran on Israeli water facilities was intended to increase the concentration of chlorine in the drinking water of Israeli citizens. Had it succeeded, the attack would have sickened many Israeli civilians and deprived many more of drinking water during a heat wave. Fortunately, the Iranian attack was detected at its beginning and thwarted before it could do any damage.

Iran’s attempt to poison the citizens of a country it considers to be an enemy demonstrates its willingness to go very far to harm the State of Israel. As it has stated many times over four decades, it wishes to destroy Israel completely. If it succeeds in achieving a nuclear arsenal, that would constitute an existential threat to Israel.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.

A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

China: the Deceptive Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

China’s ‘no first use’ nuclear fiction


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Many China experts in government and academia, and anti-nuclear activists such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Federation of American Scientists, appear not to be worried by China’s rapidly growing nuclear capabilities, because Beijing’s official policy promises that China will not be the first to employ nuclear weapons in a conflict. Beijing promises that its nuclear forces are for deterrence and retaliation only, not for aggression.   

Western analysts consistently fail to understand that, for both Beijing and Moscow, nuclear war plans are national security “crown jewels” that they try to protect and conceal behind a bodyguard of lies and disinformation. Trusting open sources and commentary – especially when they are intended to cast nuclear doctrine in the most benign possible way – is a big mistake.

For example, during the Cold War the USSR went to extraordinary lengths to misinform Western policymakers and the public that Moscow had a nuclear “no first use” doctrine. This was intended to conceal its real nuclear war plans – that we now know entailed a massive nuclear first strike early in a conflict. The “no first use” disinformation campaign also was intended to mobilize Western anti-nuclear activists, in and out of government, to constrain U.S. nuclear programs and operational plans.  

China’s alleged nuclear “no first use” doctrine, like the USSR’s during the Cold War, is almost certainly disinformation. “No first use” for China does not withstand the test of common sense.  

No conservative military planner would adopt “no first use” when China lacks ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS) radars and satellite early warning systems that would enable China to launch on tactical warning. “No first use” would doom China’s nuclear deterrent to certain destruction by a U.S. or Russian conventional or nuclear first strike, or to a nuclear first strike by India. China’s nuclear posture, especially the lack of early warning radars and satellites, is “use it or lose it,” which logically should drive Chinese military planners toward nuclear first use – indeed, toward surprise first use early in a crisis or conflict, based on strategic warning.

Regardless of China’s “no first use” declaration, it strains credulity that Beijing’s political leaders would adhere to such a policy if confronted with compelling political and military intelligence of an imminent U.S. attack. Such strategic warning was the basis for the former USSR’s secret plans for a disarming nuclear first strike under their VRYAN (surprise nuclear missile attack) intelligence program, that nearly resulted in a nuclear apocalypse during NATO’s theater nuclear exercise Able Archer 83. 

Fortunately, at least some U.S. military leaders are not as naïve as academics about China’s “no first use” pledge. Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February that he could “drive a truck through China’s ‘no first use’ policy.”

China’s unprecedented rapid expansion of its nuclear and missile capabilities is not consistent with a belief in “minimum deterrence” and “no first use.” It looks imitative of Russia’s policy seeking escalation dominance for nuclear diplomacy and nuclear warfighting.  

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned in May 2019: “China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history. … China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.”

China’s political and military leaders often have threatened nuclear war. In 2011, columnist Gordon Chang reported: “Former Chinese general Xu Guangyu … suggested China was planning a surprise missile attack on the American homeland.”  

The People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps – now the PLA Rocket Force, equivalent to U.S. Strategic Command – leaked a planning document, “Lowering the Threshold of Nuclear Threats,” that stipulated some conditions under which, in response to U.S. conventional attacks, China would launch a nuclear first strike. For example: “Targets that could draw such a response include any of China’s leading urban centers or its atomic or hydroelectric power facilities.”   

China’s military doctrine – including numerous examples of using nuclear EMP attack to win on the battlefield, defeat U.S. aircraft carriers, and achieve against the U.S. homeland a surprise “Pearl Harbor” writ large – is replete with technical and operational planning consistent with a nuclear first strike. Indeed, China’s classification of nuclear EMP attack in military doctrine as “electronic warfare” or “information warfare” indicates that EMP is not even considered a form of nuclear attack, but would be equivalent to non-nuclear EMP weapons and cyber warfare.

In March, a panel of China’s military experts threatened to punish U.S. Navy ships for challenging China’s illegal annexation of the South China Sea by making an EMP attack – one of the options they considered least provocative because the crew would be unharmed, but most effective because the ship would be disabled. Like other evidence, this, too, suggests Beijing considers EMP attack as something short of nuclear or even kinetic conflict, akin to “gray zone” threats such as electronic and cyber warfare.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission and served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of several books, including “The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission’s War To Save America 2001-2020″ (2020).

The East Fails the Iranian Horn

The East Fails Iran

Tehran pinned its economic hopes on China, India, Japan, and South Korea. But those countries have largely left the country to ruin.

Alex VatankaJune 24, 2020, 10:15 AM

Pedestrians are reflected in a window displaying currency exchange rates in the Iranian capital Tehran on June 22. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Tehran have a lot to worry about. But they are particularly irked at the speed by which Asian states have dropped Iran as a trading partner. Iran had hoped that the East would save the country’s economy from the barrage of sanctions enacted by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. In early 2018, at a time when Trump and his team were about to unveil the most punishing sanctions regime ever imposed on a country, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei explicitly urged Tehran to look east for trading partners. Khamenei’s track record in vilifying the West is lengthy, with the ayatollah regularly scorning any official in Tehran who disagreed as a simpleton or “unreasonable.” But his alternative has so far proved to be nothing but a pipe dream. Even so, Khamenei maintains the charade of a promised bailout.

Over the course of the Trump presidency, Iran’s relations with Asian countries have varied, but there is no sign of a clear success anywhere. Among the country’s big former trading partners, South Korea and India stand out as the most eager to respect U.S. sanctions on Iran. They stopped buying Iran’s oil, halted any long-term investments they had in Iran, and more or less refuse to sell anything to the country. In June, after two years of negotiations, South Korea finally sent to Iran a cargo of humanitarian goods worth $500,000. Another shipment worth $2 million is said to be under way, but only if Seoul first secures the approval of Washington.

Tehran is also livid that Seoul is still blocking payments of some $7 billion for oil that was exported to South Korea before U.S. sanctions were implemented in late 2018. Iranian media are full of headlines demanding not only that Koreans pay up but also that they hand over maintenance fees for having kept the money in two South Korean banks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has asked his government take legal action against Seoul to deter other countries from behaving the same way.

Iran’s protestations have had few results. When in 2019 the South Korean companies Samsung and LG announced that they would stop operating in Iran, officials in Tehran warned them that coming back to the Iranian market might not be so easy. “Commercial logic dictates that keeping a market is easier than reentering a market once you leave,” said one. Still, the South Koreans left. Although Iran does represent a big market, of course, the United States represents a bigger one.

South Korea is not alone. Take India. New Delhi has in recent years rebuffed Tehran at every critical turn. When the Trump administration first reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, the Indians first sought to push for a hard bargain with Tehran. India has historically had a large trade deficit with the country. In 2018, for example, its imports amounted to around $13 billion from Iran, but its exports were worth merely $3 billion. New Delhi was looking to address that imbalance. The Indians offered a barter of oil for goods. It was a major setback for Tehran, since such an arrangement would have deprived it of much-needed foreign currency exchange. In the end, U.S. pressure was impossible for the Indian government to resist, and it basically cut Iran loose altogether.

The United States had even given New Delhi a waiver so it could continue as an investor and operator in the development of Iran’s deep-sea port at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, but the Indians still dragged their feet on that project. Chabahar has long been touted as India’s strategic conduit to markets in Afghanistan and in Central Asia and as a regional counter to the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar in Pakistan. But India had second thoughts, and Tehran’s anger was palpable. In retaliation, Khamenei himself has begun to issue criticism of Indian policies in Kashmir, a conflict he had in the past largely ignored.

Among Iran’s other top trading partners in the East, Japan and China stand out for different reasons. In the case of Japan, Tokyo swiftly ended trade with Iran in compliance with U.S. sanctions. Still, the government, as former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s new book underscores, was at the same time happy to play a possible mediator role between Tehran and Washington. Since Japan is a top U.S. ally, Tehran never held out much hope for maintaining trade with Tokyo, but it seemed to genuinely appreciate Japanese efforts aimed at a diplomatic resolution. This was evident in Rouhani’s decision to pay a state visit to Tokyo in December 2019, the first by an Iranian president since 2000. Even as Japanese mediation failed to result in a breakthrough, Tokyo’s handling of the U.S.-Iranian standoff stood out as rather skillful diplomatic navigation.

Meanwhile, in Tehran’s eyes, China has ranged from being a potential silver bullet to the mother of all disappointments. In May 2019, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited China on a two-pronged mission. Zarif asked Beijing to help save the Iran nuclear deal of 2015, which the Trump administration left in May 2018. He also pushed the Chinese to continue to buy Iran’s oil and ignore U.S. sanctions. At first it looked like Zarif’s message had been well received. As he was in Beijing, it was reported that a tanker with Iranian oil had delivered its cargo to a Chinese port. This was the first time Iranian oil arrived in China since the Trump administration put a total ban on all Iranian oil exports starting in late 2018.

Just a few weeks before, at the January 2019 Munich Security Conference, Zarif had admonished the Europeans for abandoning trade with Iran under U.S. pressure. The Europeans had that month launched Instex, a mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran, but it was already clear that European investors and firms were rushing out of Iran. Only China could be Iran’s economic savior—or so the thinking went in Tehran. In fact, for the year 2019, Iran-China trade dropped by one-third to a total of around $23 billion. Both Iran and ChinaX are exporting less to each other.

The alarming data was revealed at a time when the Iranian public was already increasingly anti-Chinese due to the coronavirus, which had arrived in Iran from China sometime in late 2019. The state of affairs became so tense that China’s ambassador to Tehran, Chang Hua, had to write an open letter. He explained that the downturn in trade was due to the COVID-19 crisis in China and that it would be temporary. Since then, the Chinese ambassador has periodically reminded the Iranian public that China has long-term strategic plans for Iran and said that it is bound to be a country that will eventually dominate the global economy.

Still, while China has a strong protector in Tehran in Khamenei, there are official voices within the ranks of the ruling class that question the logic behind Iran putting all its eggs in the Chinese basket. Iran’s dependence on Beijing is creating tough questions about Tehran’s inability to risk offending its partner. And yet, the two institutions most dedicated to China in Iran are the Office of the Supreme Leader and his armed foot soldiers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the two most significant centers of power in the country. This is why China feels comfortable in its position as Tehran’s matchless foreign partner.

There is no doubt that Iran’s relationship with China is bigger than mere trade. As was evident in China’s vote against censuring Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency on June 19, Iran and China have a multitiered engagement. Most notably, each see the other as a card to be played in their respective tugs of war with the United States. But even in the unlikely event that Beijing comes through for Iran in saving its economy from U.S. sanctions, this would not be tantamount to a successful Iranian anchor in the so-called East as Khamenei has for years advocated. It is more a case of subjugation to China and its interests. There is otherwise no sign of a working Iranian policy toward the East. There are plenty of analysts and commentators in Tehran who recognize this hard reality, but very few are willing to stick their necks out and say so publicly and loudly. After all, self-censorship is a way of life for Iranian officials, and very few of them dare to question the purported wisdom of Ayatollah Khamenei’s much-coveted pivot to the East.

Alex Vatanka is a senior fellow and the director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. His forthcoming book is The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran: The United States, Foreign Policy and Political Rivalry Since 1979. Twitter: @AlexVatanka