Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”

That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.

His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles. Thanks

Babylon the Great Concedes to Iraq and Iran

US-led site handover to Iraq proceeds after attacks by suspected Iran-allied fighters

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred about 50 ammunition storage bunkers and facilities to Iraqi forces at Camp Taji, part of a continuing force consolidation as the Islamic State fight wanes and conflict with Iran-backed fighters ramps up.

The handover Sunday was long-scheduled, officials said, but it came hours after two small rockets struck near the base on Saturday night, the latest attack targeting bases where coalition forces are housed, which the U.S. has blamed on Iranian proxy groups.

The rocket strike at the base north of Baghdad did not impact near coalition forces, Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for the coalition, said on Twitter on Saturday.

Also last week, three rockets fell on Balad Air Base, the Iraqi government said Thursday, then on Friday three more fell on Baghdad’s international airport, it said. On Sunday, one landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, where diplomatic and military mission headquarters are based. None of the attacks resulted in significant damage, the Iraqi government said on Twitter.

The strikes all came after the U.S. seized more than 1 million barrels of Iranian oil from four tankers bound for Venezuela last week.

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

They also come ahead of expected U.S.-Iraq talks, which Central Command boss Gen. Frank McKenzie said would likely involve the long-term presence of American and allied troops.

“I think that is a grave concern to the Iranians because that works against what they want, which is for Iraq to be pretty directly under their control and for us to be out of the theater,” the Marine general said in an online panel hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday.

McKenzie acknowledged that the rocket attacks have forced the coalition to pull back from the ISIS fight somewhat and divert resources to self-protection. He also expected Iran to launch a fresh “response” after failing to expel the U.S. from Iraq earlier this year.

“I do not know what the nature of that response will be, but we will certainly be ready for it, should it occur,” he said.

U.S.-Iran tensions have risen steadily over the past two years, as President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to pressure Tehran into renegotiating an Obama-era nuclear treaty that Trump withdrew the U.S. from.

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Sporadic rocket attacks have become commonplace since last fall, and in January a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, leading Tehran to respond with a barrage of ballistic missiles that hit U.S.-occupied bases in Iraq and left more than 100 American troops with traumatic brain injuries.

Meanwhile, the coalition has removed forces from smaller Iraqi bases, a long-planned effort which officials have said was sped up by the increased threat from Iran-backed militias.

Two American troops and a British soldier were killed at Taji in March, but many of the coalition troops that were once at the base to train Iraqi forces have since gone elsewhere in Iraq or been sent home. There remains a small presence of troops who coordinate logistics and security operations, the coalition said.

Some 5,200 American troops remain in Iraq, but as the government forces take on more responsibility for fighting ISIS, the number of U.S. and coalition troops is expected to shrink, McKenzie said last week.

“We don’t want to maintain a huge number of soldiers forever in Iraq,” McKenzie said.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

Babylon the Great will trigger a ‘snapback’ of U.N. sanctions on Iran

Explainer: What is the U.S. threat to trigger ‘snapback’ of U.N. sanctions on Iran? | Article [AMP] | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to try this week to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran after the U.N. Security Council rejected Washington’s bid to extend an arms embargo on the country.

Here is a look at the events leading to this showdown and an explanation of what could happen next.

WHY IS THE ARMS EMBARGO ON IRAN EXPIRING?

The Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Iran in 2007.

The embargo is due to expire in mid-October, as agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal among Iran, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France and the United States that prevents Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for economic sanctions relief. That accord is enshrined in a 2015 Security Council resolution.

In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump quit the accord reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

The United States failed on Friday in a bid to extend the Iran embargo at the Security Council.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 2015 NUCLEAR DEAL?

Even though the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear deal, Washington has threatened to use a provision in the agreement to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not extend the arms embargo.

While diplomats have predicted that the so-called sanctions snapback process at the Security Council would be messy – with the remaining parties to the nuclear deal opposed to such a move – it could ultimately kill the nuclear deal because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities.

After the United States quit the deal, it imposed strong unilateral sanctions. In response, Iran has breached parts of the nuclear pact.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the next few weeks and months as critical.

WHAT SANCTIONS WOULD SNAP BACK?

A snapback of U.N. sanctions would require Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and ban imports of anything that could contribute to those activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

It would reimpose the arms embargo, ban Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and reimpose targeted sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities. Countries also would be urged to inspect shipments to and from Iran and authorized to seize any banned cargo.

HOW DOES THE UNITED STATES TRIGGER A SANCTIONS SNAPBACK?

The United States would have to submit a complaint about Iran breaching the nuclear deal to the Security Council.

The council would then have to vote within 30 days on a resolution to continue Iran’s sanctions relief. If such a resolution is not adopted by the deadline, all U.N. sanctions in place before the 2015 nuclear deal would be automatically reimposed.

Trump said the United States was likely to submit its complaint this week.

CAN THE U.S. EFFORT BE STOPPED?

It was not immediately clear how Russia, China or any other Security Council members might try to stop the United States from triggering a sanctions snapback or if procedurally there is any way they can.

Diplomats have said several countries are likely to argue that the United States legally could not activate a return of U.N. sanctions and therefore they simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

Time is Running Out Period (Revelation 16)

Time is running out to end the threat of nuclear war

August 17, 2020 at 12:48 p.m.

A clock that stopped at 11:02, the exact time the atomic bomb detonated over Nagasaki, is display in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, on Aug. 8, in Nagasaki, Japan.

As the world commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the catastrophic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki two weeks ago, we continue to face the ongoing threat of atomic weapons to human civilization. In January, the symbolic “Doomsday Clock” was moved closer to midnight — from two minutes to 100 seconds — warning of the existential danger of nuclear war. The clock first appeared on the cover of the inaugural issue in 1947 of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which was founded by a group of scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said at the January announcement, “As long as nuclear weapons remain in existence, it is inevitable they will one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design.”

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors, known in Japan as “Hibakusha,” gather each year and urge a nuclear weapons ban. This year, on August 9, at Nagasaki Peace Park, the event was scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Tomihisa Taue called upon world leaders to do more for a nuclear weapons ban. Accompanied by aging bomb survivors, he read a peace declaration in which he raised concern that nuclear states have been retreating from nuclear disarmament efforts.

When my wife, Katharine, and I went to Hiroshima in October 2016, I had personally sensed a growing urgency among the survivors to tell their stories so that younger generations continue efforts to rid the world of the menace of nuclear weapons. I received the Hiroshima Peace Prize that fall and it gave us the opportunity to see a bustling and prosperous city of 1.1 million, rebuilt after destruction by the nuclear blast, in which 140,000 people died and 70% of the buildings were demolished.

We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where we laid a wreath on the memorial structure.

We were overwhelmed by the sights in the Peace Museum, which is filled with unspeakable images of the carnage of the bomb alongside objects and artifacts donated by survivors and families of those who perished, abandoned in a split second of awesome power. Several people we met spoke of President Barack Obama, who as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, paid tribute to the people of Japan and embraced a 70-year old survivor. They were impressed with his great sensitivity as he spoke of “a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

Among our hosts, I especially recall meeting Yasuyoshi Komizo, a retired Japanese ambassador who chaired the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and was the secretary-general of Mayors for Peace, an international organization of almost 8,000 cities from over 160 countries and regions around the world. He spoke about creating greater awareness of the urgent imperative to abolish nuclear weapons and to urge nuclear powers to start negotiations towards achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

At a reception with the Hibakusha group, one survivor, speaking through her daughter-translator, lamented that, no matter how many times they repeated their stories, even in serious meetings with dignitaries, their voices were never really heard. But the message was clear: “Eliminate nuclear weapons – no more Hiroshimas or Nagasakis.”

In fact, efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons began soon after the United Nations was created. The very first resolution unanimously adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in January 1946 established a commission charged with making specific proposals for the elimination of atomic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The General Assembly has reaffirmed the goal of nuclear disarmament in numerous subsequent resolutions.

The landmark 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with near-universal membership, classified the U.N. member states in two categories — nuclear-weapon states, comprising the U.S., Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom; and non-nuclear-weapon states. The latter group agreed to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons, while the five nuclear-weapon states committed to pursuing general and complete disarmament: “Each of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Under its terms, the NPT is to be reviewed every five years. The tenth such review was to take place on May 11 this year, as it was the 25th anniversary of the indefinite extension of the Treaty. It is now postponed and is tentatively scheduled for January 2021. Several civil society organizations emphasized that, while “the world mobilizes in response to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to lose sight of the other global challenges that threaten all of us,” including the ongoing threat of catastrophic nuclear war.

The five nuclear-weapon states have never negotiated in good faith, despite their commitment under the NPT to do so.

In 1996, the International Court of Justice (the World Court) unanimously decided in its advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons that the use of nuclear weapons violates international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It reiterated the legal obligation states had undertaken in the NPT.

The 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” anywhere in the world. Although it has been ratified by 168 nations, ratification by the United States, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, Iran, and Egypt is required to bring it into force.

Civil society organizations around the world have been actively promoting nuclear disarmament. Including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Mayors for Peace, Soka Gakkai International, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Arms Control Association, and many religious and humanitarian organizations.

In July 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted, the first international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons comprehensively, banning the development, acquisition, test, use, threat of use and possession of nuclear weapons.

The international arms control architecture is unraveling while there are currently 14,000 nuclear warheads with a combined destructive capacity of 100,000 Hiroshima bombs, over 90% in the hands of the U.S. and Russia.

To illustrate the retreat by the nuclear powers from disarmament efforts, the United States has withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and it is terminating the five-year extension of the treaty “New Start,” which limits U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear forces. It has also signaled that it might resume nuclear explosive testing. It also gave notice on May 21 of withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, to be effective in six months. This treaty permits flights over national territory to collect information about military deployments. North Korea continues to conduct nuclear and missile tests. China, India, and Pakistan are increasing their arsenals, and the U.S. and Russia are upgrading theirs.

Despite powerful arguments focusing on the risks of nuclear annihilation, many states consider nuclear weapons as sources of deterrence and stability, so what can and should be done to eliminate nuclear weapons?

Numerous think-tanks and states have offered practical proposals to make progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It is imperative that all states become parties to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Last September, Gro Harlem Brundtland, three-term prime minister of Norway and former director-general of the World Health Organization, offered this step-by-step disarmament process:

·         Unequivocal “no first use declaration” by nuclear states

·         All warheads taken off high-alert status

·         Substantially reduce the one-quarter of all nuclear warheads currently deployed

·         Dramatically cut the number of nuclear weapons from 14,000 to around 2,000

One day the dreams of the Hibakusha  must become a reality.

Ved Nanda is a distinguished university professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He welcomes comments at vnanda@law.du.edu.

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No Obstacle to Developing Nuclear Weapons: Iran (Daniel 8:4)

No Obstacle to Development of Strategic Arms in Iran: Defense Minister

No Obstacle to Development of Strategic Arms in Iran: Defense Minister

  • August, 18, 2020 – 18:12

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami gave an assurance that Tehran faces no infrastructural hurdle in manufacturing strategic weapons inside the country.

In a meeting with members of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission on Tuesday, Brigadier General Hatami said the Defense Ministry does not face any problem in the production of strategic weapons and products, thanks to various infrastructures inside the country.

He also noted that the Defense Ministry has successfully carried out the strategies to strengthen national security and maintain the deterrent power in cooperation with the Parliament.

Highlighting the abundant capacities and infrastructures available at the Defense Ministry for supplying the defense needs, the general said the Defense Ministry is prepared to help the country’s economic and civilian sectors with the surplus of its defense technologies and knowledge.

He further pointed to the great role that parliamentary support plays in preserving and boosting the Defense Ministry’s efforts to ensure security and national power, proposing that special funds for the defense-related research studies will help the country attain emerging technologies and respond to the threats, according to the Iranian government’s official website.

Iranian officials have repeatedly underscored that the country will not hesitate to strengthen its military capabilities, including its missile power, which are entirely meant for defense, and that Iran’s defense capabilities will be never subject to negotiations.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has also called for efforts to maintain and boost Iran’s defense capabilities, hitting back at the enemies for disputing the country’s missile program.

“Without a moment of hesitation, the country must move to acquire whatever is necessary for defense, even if the whole world is opposed to it,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in February 2018.

Israeli tanks attack Hamas targets outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israeli tanks attack Hamas targets in Gaza Strip

Israel closed Karem Abu Salem goods crossing and Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone in week of heightened tensions.

Israeli soldiers stand atop a tank near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip [Amir Cohen/]

The Israeli army says its tanks have attacked Hamas targets in the besieged Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian rockets and airborne firebombs launched into southern Israel.

“Tanks targeted a number of military observation posts belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip,” an army statement said on Monday, referring to the group that rules the enclave.

The army said that, in addition to attacks with explosives and incendiary devices suspended from balloons, dozens of people had also “instigated riots along the Gaza Strip security fence” on Sunday evening.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

On Monday, Egyptian mediators arrived in the Gaza Strip in an effort to broker a ceasefire agreement, but departed without appearing to have secured a resolution.

Mediators typically announce any agreements before leaving the territory. But after a day of meetings with officials from Hamas, the three Egyptian general intelligence envoys left for Israel, according to Adel Abdelrahman, a Gaza-based advisor to the Egyptian mediators. They made no declaration before departing.

The Palestinian territory has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007. Israel cites security threats from Hamas for its land, air and naval blockade.

The latest incidents follow a week of heightened tensions, during which Israel has also closed the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing with the Gaza Strip and shut down Gaza’s permitted coastal fishing zone on Sunday.

Palestinian officials said the closure of the crossing in particular affected the importation of construction materials.

On Thursday, Israel said it would stop shipments of fuel into the enclave in response to the incendiary balloons.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the measure a “grave act of aggression” that would deepen Gaza’s economic hardship.

The Israeli army said Palestinian “rioters burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it” on Saturday evening.

That was followed on Sunday by Israeli air attacks on Gaza, including what a military statement called “a military compound used to store rocket ammunition” belonging to Hamas.

Despite a truce last year backed by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, the two sides clash sporadically with rockets, mortar fire or incendiary balloons.

Economic hardships

Speaking from Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said the escalation was related to the dire economic situation inside Gaza, explaining that the enclave has seen increasing levels of unemployment and more people living under the poverty line.

“Hamas has a real problem to deal with, and as we’ve seen in the past during such phases, Hamas tends to turn up the temperature. That’s what seems to be happening. There has been a return to the launching of incendiary balloons and kites and setting of fires.

“The calculation, it seems, is that they want to see Israel make good on some of the commitments Hamas says Israel made last year when there was an understanding reached to try and bring some calm after a series of escalations, such allowing more international contributions to allow for rebuilding infrastructure, the start of an industrial zone … and increased electricity,” said Fawcett.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Palestinian anger has flared since Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday agreed to normalise relations, a move many Palestinians saw as a betrayal of their cause by the Gulf country.

Sleepwalking into the first nuclear war (Revelation 8 )

Sleepwalking into a nuclear war?

By Alade Fawole

The phrase, sleepwalking into a war, is adapted from Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, the account of how, not why, the First World War began. It is appropriate at this time as the world may be inching towards a nuclear war. Though no one has used a nuclear weapon in actual combat since the US exploded two bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 to end the Second World War, the world did come close to nuclear Armageddon several times. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, the US and the then Soviet Union dragged the world dangerously close to the edge of the nuclear precipice. In more recent times, US President Donald Trump had threatened North Korea with total annihilation, according to him, because he has a bigger nuclear button than Kim Jung-Un. Mercifully, a nuclear showdown may have been averted on the Korean Peninsula since Kim’s “love letters” to Trump, but the same cannot be said of the South China Sea, where the US and China are currently flexing their military muscles. Our focus is to a different corner of the globe: first, Kashmir, the contested territory between India, Pakistan and China; and second, to Sino-Indian face-offs.

Kashmir, bitterly contested and heavily militarized territory, is a flashpoint for possible military confrontation between India and Pakistan, two most acrimonious nuclear-armed neighbours. Add the recent bloody India-China border skirmishes and what you get is a highly combustible situation. The bitterness between India and Pakistan has endured since their partitioning by the British in 1947 and the failure to resolve claims of sovereignty over Kashmir. Since then both have exercised sovereignty over separate portions of the disputed territory. What makes the territorial dispute more contentious is that the India-administered portion of Kashmir is overwhelmingly populated by Pakistan-supported Muslims who hate Hindu India with a passion. China also lays claim to a smaller portion in the northeast corner. Also remarkable is that not only have India and China fought wars, but also that India and Pakistan have fought at least two wars, and have recorded several border skirmishes over their respective claims to Kashmir.

Remarkably, not only are all the rival claimants’ contiguous neighbours and bitter geopolitical rivals, but they are also armed with weapons of mass destruction. Currently, four of the nine countries with nuclear weapons are proximate neighbours in Asia (China, India, Pakistan and North Korea), with three of them claiming parts of Kashmir. Kashmir is thus the dangerous booby trap that British colonialism left behind in that part of Asia. Of recent, there have been new rounds of vitriolic verbal jousts and military muscle-flexing, first between India and Pakistan after India’s unilateral revocation of the autonomy and special status enjoyed by India-occupied Kashmir, which is stoking antagonistic nationalistic fervour against what Pakistanis perceive as burgeoning Hindu exceptionalism, and secondly now between China and India over their common border on the Himalayas. If you add Donald Trump’s seeming pivot towards India and face-off with China to the toxic mix, the situation becomes even more precarious. Instead of mediating the crisis, Trump is deploying military assets near the region in a show of support for India against China.

Unfortunately, the attention of the other major powers is currently fixated on surviving the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating consequences; Britain is facing an uncertain post-Brexit future; other distractions include US-China trade war, US-Russia stand-off over Venezuela, Iran and the Middle East. All seem splendidly detached from the multidimensional disputes between India, Pakistan and China in that volatile corner of Asia. This is extremely dangerous, going by the flammable geopolitical scenario in that region. India and China are the two most populous countries in Asia, large economies and with formidable military capabilities to boot, who have fought wars in the past. Their relationship remains suffused with suspicion and rivalry. Indo-Pakistan relations too have rarely been friendly since their bitter separation at independence, and both have often resorted to mutual sabre-rattling in their political and territorial disagreements. India, not incorrectly so, always accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism against it. China often seeks to manipulate Indo-Pakistani disagreements to attempt cutting India to size. Both China and Pakistan are bitterly opposed to India’s aspiration for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Why, in spite of the volatile geopolitical setting in that region of three nuclear-armed countries, is the rest of the world pretending that all is well? It doesn’t feature seriously on Trump’s incoherent foreign policy agenda. Even the G-7 meeting of the world’s greatest economic powers gave it a wide berth in spite Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan’s warning of possible bloodbath because of India’s actions over Kashmir. He had hinted darkly at UN that “If a conventional war starts, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with a choice: either you surrender or you fight for your freedom till death. We will fight and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end it will have consequences beyond its borders, it will have consequences for the world”. Yet, no one seems to care. After the killing of Indian soldiers during most recent border skirmishes with China, Prime Minister Narenda Modi vowed their death would not be in vain, a hint at possible escalation of Indo-China dispute.

 

Is the world, by ignoring the spats between these adversarial neighbours, not inexorably inching towards conflicts that may involve catastrophic exchange of nuclear weapons? Is this deliberate or are we in a stupor, sleepwalking into what is clearly a preventable nuclear holocaust? The uncomfortable truth is that, left unattended by the powerful members of the international community, the current mutual acrimony between India and Pakistan, and between China and India, risks escalating into the use of nuclear weapons. This is because misperceptions, mutual suspicions, miscalculations and errors of judgement have been known to trigger needless wars and military confrontations. By not treating rival Indo-Pakistani and China-India territorial claims with the seriousness they deserve, the world may sleepwalk into a nuclear showdown. It is avoidable, if only the great powers of the world would refuse to take sides in the territorial disputes.

One thing is certain: the size of a country’s nuclear arsenal wouldn’t matter because nuclear war is simply not winnable! It is too destructive for a rational mind to contemplate, and the whole world stands to lose in a big way if it ever happens. President Kennedy’s warning in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis is worth taking to heart. He said: “Above all, while defending our vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy…or a collective death-wish for the world”. The world needs to help India, Pakistan and China diplomatically and intelligently negotiate their way out of potential nuclear showdown to save the world from collective suicide. If the course and consequences of conventional war are unimaginable, God forbid that there should ever be a nuclear confrontation.

• Prof Fawole is of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.