The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

By MARGO NASH

Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.

MARGO NASH

Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

Israel Strikes Hamas Target Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel Strikes Hamas Target in Gaza After Explosive-laden Balloons Launch, Army Says

Earlier, three small fires were sparked in southern Israel by the explosive balloons flown from the coastal enclave

The Israel Air Force struck a Hamas underground infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in response to explosive-laden balloons launched from the enclave earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Fire and Rescue Service said Thursday that three fires were sparked by the explosive balloons flown from Gaza into Israel. The fires broke out in the Eshkol regional council and Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. The spokesperson added that the fires were small and didn’t pose real danger.

LISTEN: Seth Rogen sets the record straightCredit: Haaretz

Earlier, police said that they had received a report about a balloon located in an industrial area in the southern city of Arad, with a “suspicious object attached to it.” A police supper who inspected the object said it was an explosive device with a suspension mechanism.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter that “The State of Israel won’t accept any violation of its sovereignty nor will it permit harming its citizens,” Gantz said, adding that Gaza rulers must understand that there is no other solution but to release the bodies of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens held captive in Gaza.

“Only bringing back home the boys and maintaining the calm will lead to an economic growth in the Strip. The terror organizations must understand, if they haven’t already, that those who put Israel to the test, will be severely harmed,” Gantz tweeted.

On Sunday, the army said it struck targets belonging to Hamas in retaliation for a rocket that was fired from Gaza earlier that day. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The airstrike targeted a cement production facility and underground infrastructure, according to a statement released by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

In July, three rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, two of which fell in open areas within Israeli territory and one intercepted. In response, Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the Strip. An IDF statement said that among the targets hit were “a workshop to produce rockets as well as infrastructure used to manufacture weapons for Hamas.” No casualties were reported on either side.

A Peek into Our Nuclear END (Revelation 16)

A Peek into Our Nuclear Future

Seventy-five years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, one wonders what the next 75 might bring. Will nuclear weapons’ strategic status decline, much as chemical agents’ primacy did 75 years after their first use? Or will a future shot in anger validate the bomb’s security utility?

The answer is unclear. Military advances in precision guidance and targeting are making city busting (the massive murder of innocents) far less attractive or necessary. Yet for relatively small, weak states that lack such non-nuclear options, acquiring and using the bomb may remain attractive no matter what advanced states might do. Also, despite governments’ public denials, threatening mass terror and casualties may prove irresistible for any nuclear-armed state.

For most experts in and out of government struggling with these questions, ideology usually short circuits the fight. Believe in progress? Going to zero nuclear weapons becomes imperative. Skeptical and hawkish? Nuclear deterrence will keep us safe. Fatalistic? Nuclear proliferation and use are inevitable. That’s it. Pick your prejudice, run with it, and voila, the nuclear problem is made relatively simple.

For the curious and self-aware, though, matters are more complicated.

We are in the midst of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth generations of warfare. This progression toward less violent combat has hardly precluded military planners from threatening nuclear attacks to shape their battlefields. Yet few are eager to fire nuclear weapons. Instead, leading Russian, American, and Chinese strategists favor using more discriminate weaponry—accurate precision munitions, stealth, maneuver warfare (as used in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom), gray operations (Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), political propaganda and cyber operations (China’s, Russia’s, Israel’s, America’s, and others’ latest gambit).

Advancing technologies are fortifying this penchant. The “internet of things” is enabling damaging non-kinetic strategic messaging and cyberwar operations. Advances in aiming accuracy and targeting intelligence keep driving down military requirements for massively destructive munitions. The United States can now fire modern missiles remotely to kill a specific terrorist in the back seat of a moving car. Although range still increases the cost of warhead delivery, precision targeting is no longer a function of range. Static airfields and moving aircraft carriers, which previously required a handful of nuclear tactical missiles to knockout, now can be disabled with a few precise missiles carrying modern conventional munitions.

This accuracy trend first received popular notice in the closing years of the Vietnam War, where laser guided glide bombs dramatically reduced the number of bombing runs needed to destroy point targets (for example, a single bridge pylon). This same trend made it possible to reduce by more than half U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear warheads from 1986 to 1996, and by another 70 percent from 1996 to the present. Call it arms control without diplomacy. It still is in play: The number of deployed strategic weapons in the U.S. stockpile continues to decline.

As noted, the superpowers still hold key hardened, deep, and tunneled military targets at risk with nuclear weapons. But they also are perfecting cyber, laser, kinetic, and jamming weaponry to blind, disrupt, and lobotomize these hardened targets’ eyes, ears, and nervous systems.

Why bother? Although enthusiasts for nuclear deterrence put a brave face on the first or early use of nuclear weapons, such strikes produce as a many worries as they might eliminate. If there is some way to accomplish military missions without resorting to nuclear arms, most military planners favor it. A key reason why is the inability to know, after the nuclear shooting begins, when and where it might stop. A “surgical” nuclear strike against a nuclear-armed state’s strategic command centers, for example, could easily set off nuclear retaliatory strikes against one’s capital, prompting further political face-saving eye-for-an-eye nuclear exchanges. To help avoid this outcome, most nuclear states preemptively threaten to use their nuclear arms in this total fashion, in hopes of bolstering “deterrence.”

Killing innocents, though, hardly helps neutralize, much less win, the hearts or minds of an adversary’s population—the key objective of the latest style of warfare. If, for example, the United States was eager to undo Xi’s and Putin’s brutal style of rule, wouldn’t targeting these leaders’ sources of power and pledging not to threaten the Chinese or Russian people be the thing to do? If so, perhaps the heyday of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence (holding populations hostage) is behind us.

As pleasing as this prospect might be, though, a worrisome countercurrent still remains: the spread of nuclear weapons. In the 1950s, security experts assumed only advanced, medium sized states (for example, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Sweden, and so on) would acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, most didn’t, but weaker states did—China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea. This trend could easily continue with states such as Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Egypt going nuclear. Who, after this, would be next is anyone’s guess, but Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Turkey come to mind.

Why might such proliferation occur? Relatively weak states are drawn to desperate acts if they believe they are in danger and lack confidence that anyone will protect them. Pakistan went nuclear and now relies on first use to protect itself against India’s much larger military. Israel went nuclear in the 1950s for much the same reason. Arguably, North Korea also did so for similar reasons in the 1980s. At the very least, others, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, will want an option to acquire nuclear arms quickly.

A proven way to accomplish this is to develop “peaceful” nuclear energy. The UK, India, Taiwan, North and South Korea, Sweden, Iraq, Iran, South Africa, and France all developed civilian nuclear research and power programs before, or as a part of, their efforts to acquire weapons. By now, this history should have made nuclear supplier states wise to how large reactors are bomb-starter-kits. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.

Russia, financially stretched by economic sanctions, still hopes to make a killing (or at least keep Russian nuclear workers employed) by subsidizing the export of reactors. China and South Korea, eager to capitalize on their massive state-supported domestic nuclear investments, are also keen to use state-backed financing to break into dodgy, “frontier” markets. Even the United States government is now antsy to bankroll otherwise uneconomic “advanced” U.S. nuclear reactor exports in hopes of making America’s enfeebled nuclear industry great again. Many U.S. next-generation reactor designs need uranium and plutonium fuels that, in turn, require new enrichment and reprocessing plants—facilities that could bring states within days of getting the bomb. This is not a story that’s likely to end well.

Indeed, with any bad luck, this trend could easily race ahead of the military scientific slog that’s pushing nuclear weapons into the background. The proper response would be to get serious about nonproliferation by promoting more economic nonnuclear energy alternatives, tightening the rules on nuclear exports—“peaceful” or otherwise—and restricting trade in advanced military delivery systems.

Unfortunately, current events are not cutting in that direction. Although it received scant attention, last month a long-simmering border dispute flared up again between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In response, Azerbaijan threatened to attack Armenia’s nuclear power reactor with precise ballistic missiles that Israel had recently sold Azerbaijan’s military. Such a strike could release deadly radioactivity. Armenian commentators and officials immediately recoiled, making international legal arguments against the “terroristic” targeting of its population (and balefully disavowed any retaliatory intent to attack Azerbaijan’s dams and oil and gas facilities).

Turkey reassured Azerbaijan that it still had Ankara’s back (by means of advanced arms sales). Then the Russians got involved. First, a Russian security expert noted that Russia would militarily deter any attack against Armenia’s reactor (or at least that it could not resist militarily intervening if Azerbaijan did attack Armenia’s nuclear plant). Shortly thereafter, Putin phoned Erdoğan to “coordinate efforts for stabilization in region.” It is unclear, however, if any stabilization occurred. Several days later, Turkey instead escalated matters, sending Turkish F-16 multirole fighters to Azerbaijan as part of a responsive, tailored joint military exercise.

Use whatever historical analogy you like: This neglected news stream suggests a not-so-brave future spiked with occasional nuclear Sarajevos. High on this future’s list of ingredients is the further operation and construction of sympathetic targets in the world’s hotspots. These include large reactors in Central Asia (Armenia has such a plant; Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan plan on building them), in the Middle East (the UAE and Iran have reactors on line; Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are in the midst of building their own), in Southwest Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are all building or operating them), and in East Asia (North and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China). Besides such reactors, large dams and oil and gas facilities could also serve as sympathetic targets that, if hit, could drag in nuclear-armed allies.

Dial in bitter, lasting historical rivalries between armed contestants (Pakistan versus India, Saudi Arabia versus Iran, Turkey versus Armenia, North Korea versus South Korea). Fortify each with a nuclear-armed sponsor (China for Pakistan, Russia for Armenia, China for North Korea, the United States for South Korea, Russia for Iran, the United States for Saudi Arabia). Sprinkle in relatively small numbers of super-accurate, non-nuclear missiles and related technology exports under ever looser missile restrictions to South and North Korea (from Russia, China, and the United States), to Armenia (from Russia), to Azerbaijan (from Israel), to Iran (from North Korea, Russia, and China), to India (from Russia), to Saudi Arabia (from China), and to the UAE (the same). The result: Yet more ways for existing scraps to catalyze into broader contests that could go nuclear. And assuming no countervailing efforts to break these trends, the list of regions and contestants will grow.

Could International agreements or laws help head this off? In theory, yes. Tightening international missile and nuclear technology exports would definitely help even if this may not be worked until after a clear disaster. A more optimistic take is that what we need most already exists and should be controlling: In specific, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 1977 Additional Protocols, and the U.S. Defense Department’s regulations regarding the conduct of war. These prohibit intentionally targeting civilians, demand efforts to avoid harming innocents, and stipulate that whatever military harm civilians suffer in wars must be proportionate to identifiable military gains.

Properly interpreted, these strictures should make future Hiroshimas illegal. It is unclear, however, if this alone could prevent them. Why? First, what is “proportionate” is in the eye of the beholder. Victors almost always insist their military actions were proportionate; their victims don’t. Second, the public’s taste for vengeance in both large and small states generally grows if the war drags on and becomes ever more bloody. Political leaders ignore this at their own peril and so generally don’t. This helps explain Truman’s decision to drop the first two bombs, and why there are still military legal experts who believe nuclear strikes against cities are legal.

This, then, brings us to the matter of deterrence. Ultimately, leaders are “all in” when it comes to deterring aggression and are quite vocal about their willingness to inflict “unacceptable damage” (that is, killing innocents) to achieve it. Such cold-hearted hard-headedness is not just to be found among the truculent right, but also from sectors of the arms control left that oppose “massive, destabilizing” nuclear “counterforce” targeting of military assets. Their preference: Go to a “deterrence only” strategy that would use far fewer weapons primarily against “the enemy’s economic capacity” (located in or near a relative few, large cities).

We need to let this go. An idea worth revisiting is to agree to stop the nuclear targeting of cities. Political leaders might still want to bomb them. But the prospect of postwar criminal proceedings should focus their minds and do more to deter the worst than any threatening of nuclear mass murder ever could. Other forms of diplomacy would also help. These include tighter nuclear and missile technology export controls. Also needed are restraints that would encourage further development of weaponry designed to make strategic offensive surprise and massive, indiscriminate attacks like Hiroshima an ever more distant memory.

The Shi’a Horn Stands By Lebanon (Daniel 8:8)

Ayatollah Khamenei: Iran Stands by Lebanon – Politics news – Tasnim News Agency

Tasnim News Agency

In a message published by the Leader’s Twitter account on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei expressed sympathy with the people of Lebanon over deaths and injuries in the huge explosion.

We sympathize with the dear citizens of Lebanon and stand by them in the painful tragedy of the explosion in Beirut port, which killed and injured a large number of people and caused severe damage. Patience in the face of this tragedy will be a golden page in Lebanon’s honor,” the Leader said.

Lebanon’s president has declared a two-week state of emergency following the massive explosion in Beirut that has killed at least 135 people and injured 5,000 others.

The explosion on Tuesday sent shockwaves across the city, causing widespread damage even on the outskirts of the capital.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Officials linked the blast to hundreds of tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.

The explosion has also destroyed Lebanon’s silos that contain the national grain reserve. Lebanon imports up to 80 percent of its food needs and is particularly reliant on imported soft wheat to make Arabic flatbread. About 85 per cent of the country’s cereals were reportedly stored in the facility.

The Threat of Nuclear War Continues to Grow (Revelation 16)

The New Nuclear Dawn Threat of Atomic Weapons Grows as U.S., Russia and China Renew Arms Race

Seventy-five years after the dropping of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, one nuclear non-proliferation after the other is lapsing. A new arms race is already taking shape between Russia, the United States and China.The testing of a nuclear bomb in the Nevada desert

Foto: The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

It’s not very difficult for an industrialized country to build a nuclear bomb. The technology is already available, and it’s astonishing that more countries haven’t done it so far.

The veto powers on the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – all have nuclear weapons, as do Israel, India and Pakistan. Beyond that, there’s North Korea and perhaps also soon Iran.

Many worry that the proliferation of nuclear weapons could spin out of control. But those worries apparently don’t go deep enough. Fears of nuclear war more or less disappeared after the Cold War and they haven’t returned since. The nuclear weapons of the world’s major powers seem to be in a state of slumber deep within their silos, like mythical creatures from a distant past. That impression, however, is deceptive.

In recent years, one disarmament treaty after the other has been dismantled, including the nuclear deal with Iran, the INF treaty banning land-based, medium-range weapons, the Open Skies Treaty, which guarantees countries mutual reconnaissance flights – all terminated by U.S. President Donald Trump. The New START treaty on strategically offensive weapons is also about to expire.

“We are returning to the days of the 1950s and 1960s, when each country decided for itself how many and what kind of weapons to deploy,” says Vienna-based disarmament expert Nikolai Sokov.

The Washington Post recently reported that Trump is considering conducting new nuclear tests in Nevada. The decommissioned test site there is still littered with craters left behind by around a thousand underground detonations – all traces of the Cold War. A new test would be a clear indication that, after three decades of silence, a new nuclear age is dawning.

Meanwhile, Moscow is also tinkering with devices that seem to come straight out of a Cold War science fiction film. Last year, seven people died when a nuclear-powered cruise missile apparently exploded during an attempted salvage operation in the White Sea. A nuclear mega-torpedo is also under development that could wipe out coastal cities with artificial tsunamis.

And in the shadow of the two major nuclear powers of U.S. and Russia, China is expanding its arsenal, unbound by the old arms control treaties.

The fact that, 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world is entering a new spiral of nuclear madness is a political disaster. Some 191 countries wanted to prevent this state of affairs, including the countries in possession of nuclear weapons. That’s what they promised when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has been in force since 1970. The treaty is full of good intentions and has served more or less as the cornerstone of nuclear arms control since it went into effect. Under the treaty, countries that are not already in possession of nuclear weapons agree to not pursue them for as long as it remains in effect. In return, the nuclear powers commit to reducing their arsenals. Doubts, though, have been growing for quite some time that the five recognized nuclear powers are prepared to stick to their part of the agreement.

That hasn’t been lost on Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs. “The move toward nuclear disarmament has stalled and is now in reverse,” she says.

The United States: Spend the Adversary into Oblivion

In April 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama gave an outdoor speech in Prague, against the magnificent backdrop of Prague Castle. It was a typical Obama appearance – he found just the right words and didn’t shy away from a bit of emotiveness and idealism.

“Today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama said. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that same year, in part for his vision of a nuclear weapons-free world.

Only a decade later, the world finds itself in the midst of the new arms race – and it didn’t just begin under Donald Trump’s watch.

Obama was successful in signing the New START treaty with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which reduces the number of warheads and delivery systems for strategic offensive arms. The move saved the disarmament measure initiated by Ronald Reagan in 1982 and contractually sealed in 1991 by his successor George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. New START replaced the START I treaty, which expired in 2009.

But to get it ratified by the Republican-controlled Senate, Obama had to promise a modernization program for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In reality, new weapons have been developed, including the American forces’ first nuclear “smart bomb.” The B61-12 model, weighing 350 kilograms (770 pounds), can strike its target with pinpoint accuracy using satellite navigation.

This February, the New START treaty is also set to expire, and members of the U.S. government have already ruled out an extension. With the end of New START, one of the last major barriers preventing an arms race between the two largest nuclear powers would disappear.

Negotiations over the issue are at least still ongoing — that’s one sliver of hope. Rose Gottemoeller, Obama’s chief negotiator for New START, is optimistic. Should Joe Biden be elected, she says, the chances of an extension are “nearly 100 percent.” She says that Trump also has an interest in maintaining the agreement for a short time because “stable conditions are required over the next decade” for the ongoing modernization of nuclear carrier systems.

She is also willing to grant Trump at least one diplomatic success. In the past, Moscow had set conditions for an extension of New START – in the area of missile defense, for example. But there is little mention of that now. Moscow wants to save the treaty, despite all the threatening gestures.

Meanwhile, the new arms race is continuing and Washington is committed to it. “We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion,” Trump’s special envoy for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, recently boasted. Just as Washington once knocked out the economically inferior Soviet Union, Russia and China could now be outdone, he said.

If Trump now wants to be celebrated by his followers for strengthening America’s nuclear power, he will merely be taking the baton from his predecessors. Next year, Trump wants to increase spending on nuclear weapons from $37.3 to $44.5 billion.

A further milestone in disarmament was the INF Treaty between Washington and Moscow. It bans all land-based medium-range weapons – the missiles that posed a threat to Europe in the 1980s.

But Russia defied the treaty by developing a land-based cruise missile with a range that exceeded that allowed by the treaty. The Obama administration was critical of Russia’s treaty violations and NATO partners, including Germany, believe the accusation to be credible. Washington withdraw from the treaty in February.

Russia: Feeling Ahead

Washington’s most powerful rival in the field of nuclear weapons is Moscow — and in that sense, nothing has really changed. In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), Russia may be a dwarf, at only one-twelfth the size of the U.S. But its nuclear arsenal remains impressive: It possesses about 6,000 warheads, of which 1,500 are deployable by land, from the sea or from the air. The Russian and American arsenals alone account for more than 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. And these arsenals have been updated.

“For the first time in the history of nuclear weapons,” Vladimir Putin announced, “we don’t have to catch up with anyone. On the contrary, the world’s other leading nations will have to first create the weapons that Russia already has.”

“It’s hard to tell who is ahead in the arms race — there are several races taking place at the same time,” says arms expert Sokov. “For cruise missiles, whether land-, sea- or air-based, Russia is lagging behind. As it is in missile defense, as well. Russia is leading in terms of hypersonic weapons. It is also ahead when it comes to means of evading a missile defense systems.”

It is clear to Russia that if is able to achieve parity with the U.S. in any way, then it will be in the field of nuclear weapons. In the view of the Kremlin, they are the guarantor of Russian sovereignty.

That helps to explain the vehemence with which Moscow is reacting to U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system. Ever since Washington moved in 2001 to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, which restricted missile defense systems, Moscow has been concerned about the threat it poses to strategic stability. In Putin’s eyes, the termination of the ABM treaty was the first step on the road to the current problems.

Reminiscent of a James Bond villain, Putin two years ago presented computer-animated videos depicting the new miracle weapons that Russian either already possessed or was in the process of developing. They include the Burevestnik nuclear-armed cruise missile with nearly unlimited range; the Poseidon nuclear torpedo, which can render coastal cities uninhabitable; the Sarmat, a heavy intercontinental missile that can strike the U.S. from the South Pole; and the Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle that can carry nuclear warheads. Officially, the Avangard glide vehicles are already in service. The Sarmat is scheduled for delivery in 2021. These weapons all have one thing in common: They can supposedly circumvent U.S. missile defense systems.

“The message was: We used to be behind, but now we’re ahead. We’re not afraid of the Americans and their missile defense,” says Alexei Arbatov, the head of the Center for International Security in Moscow.

It’s difficult to get a good read on Russia’s nuclear strategy. Is it defensive or offensive in nature? “Moscow threatens and exercises limited nuclear first use,” was the assessment of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a nuclear policy strategy paper prepared by the U.S. Defense Department in 2018 for the Trump administration. That argument has been used by Washington to justify the development of tactical nuclear weapons with low explosive power. But experts have their doubts about the accusation.

Putin, for his part, has officially ruled out the possibility of a pre-emptive strike. In June, the president established the “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence” in an effort to eliminate any doubts. “The Russian Federation considers nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence, their use being an extreme and compelled measure,” the principles state.

The document laying out the fundamental policy is a reiteration of what has effectively been Russia’s strategy since 2010: That nuclear weapons would only be used in response to a conventional attack, but only “when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.” What that means, though, is an open question. “The document is ambiguous and incomprehensible even to experts,” Arbatov says, critically.

Finally, Putin’s position on existing arms treaties has also created uncertainty. The INF Treaty has effectively been destroyed by Russia’s alleged violation of the deal. Putin has also criticized it as “unilateral disarmament” on the part of the Soviet Union. “God alone,” he once said, knows why the leadership at the time signed such an unfavorable document.

China: The Great Unknown

Lop Nur, China’s former nuclear weapons test site, is located on the eastern edge of the Taklamakan Desert and is where China’s first atomic bomb, developed with help from Moscow, was detonated in 1964. The country went on to conduct 45 tests there by 1996. The site was even touted as a tourist attraction for a while.

China is proud of its nuclear program, but it still considers itself to be a second-league nuclear power. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that Beijing possesses only 320 nuclear warheads, about a 20th of the Russian and American arsenals. The institute further believes that none of those warheads is immediately deployable. Moreover, China has been pursuing a defensive nuclear doctrine that rules out a first strike since the 1960s, although that could be deceptive. “The truth is that we really don’t know whether China is a ‘minor nuclear power,’” says military expert Zhao Tong of the Carnegie Tsinghua Center, a think tank in Beijing. “China has never released an official number of its warheads, not even a rough number.” Zhao currently sees China in third place. “Most importantly,” he says. “China is a world power that is massively expanding its arsenal.”

This is particularly true of China’s arsenal of ballistic missiles, which is now the world’s largest and is not limited by any disarmament treaty. China is especially strong in the category of medium-range missiles, which have a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. “These regional systems are much more important than strategic intercontinental missiles,” says Zhao. “Because any serious conflict in which China could be involved will break out at the regional level – in the dispute over Taiwan, for example, or in the South China Sea.”

China is not bound by the INF Treaty between Washington and Moscow, and medium-range missiles now even form the backbone of Chinese defense doctrine. Most Chinese nuclear weapons are currently stored on land, where they can be destroyed, which is leading Beijing to increasingly lean toward submarine-based nuclear weapons.

China is also concerned about the increasingly powerful missile defense system developed by the U.S. When the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program came to a head in 2017, South Korea agreed to deploy the American THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system. Beijing protested because the high-power radar is also capable of spying deep into China. There have been calls to massively expand China’s deterrent capacity. Hu Xijn, editor-in-chief of the nationalist Global Times newspaper in Beijing, has proposed increasing the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 as quickly as possible. Even the “No First Use” doctrine, which goes back to Mao Zedong, is no longer sacrosanct.

“The majority is still in favor of sticking with this strategy,” says Carnegie’s Zhao. “But in recent years, there has been a growing number of voices in the military who disagree.” China, he argues, has a “very cynical view” of power relations. The idea has always been that, “the weaker party is always dominated by the stronger party in the end.”

It is quite conceivable that China will double the number of its nuclear warheads in the coming years, including multiple warheads that can be installed on the strategic long-range DF-5 and DF-41 missiles. Beijing believes the time has come to close the gap with the U.S., to modernize its military – “and not to limit its capabilities under any circumstances, let alone reduce them.” That, however, is exactly what the U.S. is demanding. Washington wants to use public pressure to force Beijing to the negotiating table, though that hasn’t worked so far.

“To pull the Chinese into (New START) is, in theory, a good idea,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said at an online event in Washington. “In practice,” however, he said it would be “impossible” because “the Chinese have no incentive whatsoever to participate.”

The New Uncertainty

“During the Cold War, all the nuclear weapons that had been stockpiled added up to equivalent of 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs. Today, there are only 100,000 bombs left that are equivalent to Hiroshima,” says international security expert Arbatov. “But that is also enough to put an end to humanity.”

But it’s not only the number of atomic bombs that’s decisive – the number of nuclear powers is also growing. India and Pakistan have no plans to give up their arsenals anytime soon. Nor is North Korea likely to renounce the bomb under Kim Jong Un. Iran is also pressing ahead resolutely with its nuclear program.

For dictatorships, nuclear weapons can serve as a kind of life insurance policy. As long as they can threaten with the bomb, their opponents will think twice before intervening. And that serves only to complicate the situation.

Worse yet, the most important guarantor of peace has disappeared: the fear of nuclear war that makes compromises possible in the first place. “We have forgotten how to fear nuclear war,” says Sokov. “And the bad thing about that is that if people aren’t afraid of it, it will become inevitable.”

Anticipating the possible failure of the disarmament deal concluded in 1970 between nuclear and non-nuclear powers, a group of countries initiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was adopted in a round of UN negotiations and puts nuclear weapons on par with biological and chemical weapons – prohibited weapons of war. So far, 40 countries have ratified the nuclear weapon ban treaty and it goes into effect once 50 nations have ratified it, a figure that observers believe could be reached in the next year.

At most, the ban treaty will influence the political debate. Legally, it has few consequences, since none of the nuclear powers have signed it. Not a single NATO member state is participating, either, and that includes Germany. Ultimately, the treaty is really just a symbol of good intentions at a time when the arms race has already long since restarted. At this point, getting rid of the bomb will be no easy feat.

Israel Minister Promises to Take Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israel minister to i24NEWS: ‘We will take over Gaza again’

August 04, 2020, 07:08 PM

In an exclusive interview, Tzachi Hanegbi claims Israel will need to reinvade the Strip and take control

Israel will eventually have to invade Gaza and take over control of the Hamas-run enclave, Israel’s Community Affairs Minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, told i24NEWS in an exclusive interview. 

“We will eventually have to go all the way into Gaza and taker over, because one day it will be impossible to do so. One day there will be so many rockets and missiles fired from Gaza that the Israeli public won’t accept the status quo anymore” Hanegbi said. 

His comments came after a rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday. And while Hanegbi assesses that invading the Gaza Strip is inevitable, he also acknowledged the heavy costs in doing so. 

“It’s going to be painful. Sometimes terrorist organizations lose it, out of delusion or frustration. And this is when you are left without any option. I wouldn’t initiate going all the way in. Even when we have to take over the Gaza Strip one day, we don’t want to control the lives of two million people,” Hanegbi said. 

Israel unilaterally pulled out of the Gaza Strip in August 2005 “Disengagement.” Hamas took control of the Strip in 2007 after a bloody and violent coup against the Palestinian Authority.

If we did not pull out, we would not have this problem now, plus how, why did we let Iranian influence into Gaza etc, what a sick joke,? Right on our borders, this is not a defence tactics,? Putting our jewish life’s at risk. At the end of the day, it’s either. Them or us. Tehran won’t stop until it gets Jerusalem, we can’t wait until they are wearing backpacks with radiation and chemical packs, if we don’t act… We will lose. Israel, God forbid, there’s no peace process , never will be, we are in trouble, damed if we do, damed if we don’t act, get all press out when ready, cut mob. Phones etc, get on with the job, world hates us already, take our land back. Take out pts, Syria, lebonon, Southern Sinai, etc, we have that power, unless you lied to us Jews, Moscow won’t help??? Unless you have a masterpiece plan, this will get worse,?. Tit for tat, getting know where,??? Shalom, frustrated jew. Shalom, p. S, shalom was right blow up that Al ask, a. Mosque. Or dismantle, give to overseas. X

Shloymie DerfischAugust 04, 2020, 03:41 PM

The north in Lebanon isa Worse situation.

Antichrist’s Men not worried about Al-Kadhimi

Iraq’s powerful militias not worried about Al-Kadhimi

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is set to visit Washington soon, although he does not yet have a date or an invitation, so he is scrambling to say all the right things in order to secure a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Iraq is worse off than it was two weeks ago and this last week has propelled two items to the top of the list for Al-Kadhimi’s visit to the US: Kata’ib Hezbollah’s continued attacks on the US and Iraqis, and calls by Al-Kadhimi for early elections that Kata’ib Hezbollah and its allies in Iraq’s Council of Representatives won’t allow to happen.

The top agenda item for Trump is for Al-Kadhimi to do something about the militias that he supposedly commands as Iraq’s commander in chief. The militias that fall under the government’s security apparatus are attacking US personnel in Iraq, which are there to partner with the Baghdad government to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh. The militias have now become more of a threat to the US and Iraqis than Daesh.

Trump wants to know if the US has a partner in Iraq. The president is willing to pull US forces out of Iraq if this “partner” continues to disappoint. Republicans and Democrats are looking for a reason to end this experiment. And it won’t be without costs to Baghdad and Tehran.

Two actions by the Democrat-led House of Representatives point to a breakup if nothing changes. Democrats voted to cut funding for the US mission in Iraq by $145 million and Republican Rep. Joe Wilson was able to get two amendments passed that would ensure no US dollars go to any institution in Iraq where the militias have access to the funds — that would mean the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior would be most affected.

The US is in Iraq to deal with Daesh under a UN mandate but the biggest threat to American forces is from militias, which the Iraqi government pays and supposedly controls. Kata’ib Hezbollah is a designated terrorist group that attacks Americans, kills Iraqis, and is now threatening Al-Kadhimi with assassination. It vowed to hold the prime minister responsible for the deaths of Qassem Soleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah founder Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis — both killed simultaneously in a US drone strike in early January.

Al-Kadhimi has brushed off the threats to his life but is not willing to confront the powerful militia. Most Iraqis believe and the evidence points to Kata’ib Hezbollah as the militia responsible for killing the PM’s adviser and expert analyst Hisham Al-Hashemi last month. Some Iraq watchers say that it would put Al-Kadhimi in danger if he even hinted that Kata’ib Hezbollah was responsible for Al-Hashemi’s targeted assassination.

It is the parliament, not the prime minister, which will decide if there is to be electoral reform and early elections.

Michael Pregent

This is exactly why Al-Kadhimi has to take on the militias; an entity within the Iraqi security forces cannot openly threaten to kill the prime minister without repercussions. If that’s where we are at in Iraq — a place where the commander in chief cannot use the Iraqi security forces to take on a rogue militia beholden to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force — then the US should withdraw all support and place the Iraqi government in economic disfavor, while continuing to support traditional and new allies in greater Iraq.

Withdrawing US financial support for the Iraqi government and sanctioning Iraq’s institutions, where groups like Kata’ib Hezbollah funnel US dollars to Tehran, will impact Iran and its political parties in Iraq. The protesters are demanding Al-Kadhimi go after the militias. They want the US to end its support for the status quo. They want new elections in order to end Iran’s vote on what Iraqis do, and they want them now.

A key component of Al-Kadhimi’s interim status as prime minister is to call for new elections, arrest those responsible for killing Iraqi protesters, and rein in the militias beholden to Tehran. He has said the right things, but his actions and inaction are all that matter.

Let’s look at Iraq ahead of Al-Kadhimi’s US visit. Protesters are once again on the streets demanding free and fair elections, water and electricity, jobs, and an Iraq free of Iranian interference. Iraqi protesters are still being killed, tortured, kidnapped for ransom, disappeared, and detained by militias and the security forces. By design, the forces under the command of Iraq’s commander in chief are operating outside of his control.

Al-Kadhimi has demanded investigations into the violence used against protesters and, on two occasions, has detained militia members using Iraq’s special forces, only to release them within 48 to 72 hours. Their release came after immense pressure from Tehran, Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Fatah alliance led by the Badr Organization’s Hadi Al-Amiri.

The prime minister is in a predictable position: He has no power to do anything against those that put him in power. Iran has had control of Iraq’s parliamentary system since the 2018 elections. It had loose control with the Dawa Party under Nouri Al-Maliki, but this was solidified with the militias that came to power in 2018, when Fatah came in ahead of then-Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s Nasr party.

Abadi, commander in chief during the Daesh campaign, lost out on the credit for defeating Daesh to the militias commanded by Soleimani through Al-Muhandis and Al-Amiri. Ironically, the moniker “Our guy in Baghdad” has been given to Al-Kadhimi by Tehran, Riyadh, and, yes, Washington.

The 2018 elections gave political parties tied to Tehran control of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance may have come in first, but Tehran was not concerned as it has always demonstrated an ability to push Al-Sadr to support its position. Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and Al-Amiri’s Fatah corralled Al-Sadr, Abadi and Ammar Al-Hakim of the Hikma party to form the largest bloc in parliament — the bloc known as Al-Bina’a.

The militias wear suits in the Council of Representatives; they have control and they have primacy. It is the parliament, not the prime minister, which will decide if there is to be electoral reform and early elections. The militias supported Al-Kadhimi for a reason: They are not worried about him as they have all the power.

Both the US and Iraqis want free, fair and early elections, but Iran does not. Iraqis are willing to die for freedom from corrupt political and religious parties that prioritize Tehran’s concerns above theirs. The US needs to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those Iraqis wanting sovereignty from Iran by shedding a spotlight on the atrocities committed by the militias and the Iraqi security forces.

Washington and Baghdad also both want Al-Kadhimi to take on Iran’s militias, while Iran does not. Gone are the weak arguments that taking on Iran’s proxies will rally Iraqis round the flag in support of the militias. This line of reasoning is old, tired and was debunked with the deaths of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis. Iraqis did not rally round the flag; instead they demanded more militia leaders be targeted by the US.

The US must demand Al-Kadhimi take on the militias that are threatening its troops and Iraq’s sovereignty. And the White House must demand that Al-Kadhimi holds free, fair and early elections. In both cases, Iran has a stronger position than the US. Iran has a say through its militias’ penetration of Iraq’s political and security apparatus. The US does, however, have economic leverage that could decimate Iraq’s economy and end Tehran’s use of Iraq as an economic life support system.

Al-Kadhimi must use a trusted group within the Iraqi security forces that is willing to take on the militias, arrest their leaders and, most importantly, keep them in custody despite the pressure from Iran and its Iraqi partners. This will grow his support in Iraq and give him leverage against Fatah in the Council of Representatives. If Al-Kadhimi does not take action, the US must make it a costly decision for the Iraqi government.

Al-Kadhimi has two options: Tilt Iraq away from Iran or be treated like Iran. And the US also has two options: Stay blind to Iran’s takeover of Iraq or listen to the Iraqi people who want to help it get Iraq right.

• Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view