History Warns New York Is The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New York Earthquake 1884Friday, 18 March 2011 – 9:23pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: ANIIf the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.There’s another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale.

Trump defies the plague: Revelation 6

Trump to leave hospital on Monday after weekend Covid treatment – BBC News

President Trump pays “surprise visit” to supporters outside hospital

US President Donald Trump says he will be released from hospital later on Monday, four days after being admitted with Covid-19.

Just before a scheduled briefing from his doctors, Mr Trump tweeted he would be leaving at 18:30 (22:30 GMT), adding that he felt “really good”.

But questions remain over the seriousness of Mr Trump’s illness after a weekend of conflicting statements.

The true scale of the outbreak at the White House remains unclear.

Feeling really good!” Mr Trump tweeted.

Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!!”

There are more than 7.4 million Covid-19 cases in the US and the virus has killed nearly 210,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The president’s discharge comes as more new cases have been reported among White House staff.

At least 12 people close to Mr Trump have now tested positive, as have several junior staff members.

Many of the people who have tested positive around President Trump attended a meeting at the White House on 26 September that is being scrutinised as a possible “super-spreader event”.

The White House has not revealed how many staff members have tested positive since Mr Trump’s own diagnosis.

Who else around the president has tested positive?

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest high-profile figure close to the president to confirm a positive test earlier on Monday.

US media said two other aides to the press secretary had had a positive result. Ms McEnany was seen speaking to journalists without wearing a mask on Sunday but said no members of the press had been listed as close contacts by the White House medical unit.

First Lady Melania Trump, senior aides and three Republican senators have also tested positive.

President Trump’s diagnosis has upended his election campaign, as he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden on 3 November.

First Lady Melania, who is 50, has been isolating at the White House, reportedly with mild symptoms. In a tweet she said: “I am feeling good [and] will continue to rest at home” .

The wind of God‘s wrath pounds the Caribbean: Jeremiah 23

Tropical Storm Delta Could Become a Hurricane Tonight in Caribbean; A Danger to U.S. Gulf Coast Late This Week

At a Glance

Tropical Storm Delta is intensifying in the western Caribbean Sea.

Delta is expected to become a hurricane soon.

Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and western Cuba will be the first areas impacted by this system.

Delta will likely strike the northern U.S. Gulf Coast late this week.

Interests from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle should monitor the progress of this system closely.

Tropical Storm Delta is intensifying in the Caribbean Sea, could brush or strike the Cayman Islands and western Cuba, then poses an increasing hurricane danger to the U.S. Gulf Coast by late this week.

Forecast Timing, Intensity

This latest tropical storm, the 25th of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, first became a tropical depression late Sunday night, and is quickly gaining steam in the western Caribbean Sea south-southwest of Jamaica, moving to the west-northwest at 5 to 10 mph.

Delta is in an environment of the highest ocean heat content anywhere in the tropical Atlantic basin and low wind shear. Given that, Delta is likely to become a hurricane soon, and may intensify rapidly before it nears western Cuba.

The center of Delta is expected to continue tracking generally toward the northwest through Wednesday night, after which forecast guidance suggests that Delta will eventually turn northward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast late in the week.

Where and when that northward turn occurs will determine what areas see the greatest potential impacts, somewhere from Louisiana into the Florida Panhandle.

Delta is expected to be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane when it nears the U.S. Gulf Coast sometime later Thursday through Friday. However, the intensify forecast is still uncertain since this system could face increasingly unfavorable upper-level winds and cooler Gulf water as it draws closer to the U.S.

Despite any weakening near the Gulf Coast, Delta could still be a formidably strong hurricane at landfall late this week.

Latest Information

(The red-shaded area denotes the potential path of the center of the tropical cyclone. It’s important to note that impacts (particularly heavy rain, high surf, coastal flooding, winds) with any tropical cyclone usually spread beyond its forecast path.)

Potential Impacts

Caribbean

Strong winds and heavy rain will be possible across portions of Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands during the next few days. This could lead to dangerous flash flooding and mudslides in hilly or mountainous terrain.

A storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels along the southern coast of western Cuba and on the Isle of Youth.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Cayman Islands where tropical storm conditions are expected beginning late Monday.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio. A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are in effect for Cuba’s Isle of Youth, where hurricane conditions are possible by Tuesday afternoon.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Cuba’s Artemisa province. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Cuban province of La Habana.

Current Watches and Warnings

U.S. Gulf Coast

It’s too early to determine specific forecast impacts from Delta on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

As mentioned earlier, Delta could be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast late in the week.

A dangerous storm surge, hurricane-force winds and flooding rainfall could threaten a part of the northern Gulf Coast. Those potential impacts are most likely to occur somewhere from Louisiana into the Florida Panhandle.

Conditions may begin to deteriorate along the northern Gulf Coast as soon as Thursday.

Tropical-storm-force Wind Arrival Times

(This is when winds of 40 mph may arrive and when it is too late to finish preparations. )

As with all tropical cyclones, impacts will also extend inland.

Delta is expected to gain forward speed through the Southeast Friday into Saturday.

That faster movement could spread strong, possibly damaging winds farther inland than what we saw with Hurricane Sally last month.

It could also lessen Delta’s extreme rainfall potential, though locally flooding rainfall is still expected, particularly along and to the east of its path and particularly over areas soaked from Sally’s prolific rain last month.

Residents along the northern Gulf Coast should update themselves on the forecast multiple times a day this week since forecast changes are likely.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

The new cold war with China

A new cold war: Trump, Xi and the escalating US-China confrontation

In the first of a series, Gideon Rachman explores how the rivalry between the two superpowers is starting to feel eerily familiar

October 5, 2020

© FT montage; Getty. Then: Truman vs Stalin. Now: Trump vs Xi

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an ‘iron curtain’ has descended across the continent.” Winston Churchill’s speech in Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 is remembered as a key moment in the outbreak of the cold war.

If future historians are ever looking for a speech that marked the beginning of a second cold war — this time between America and China — they may point to an address by Mike Pence delivered at Washington’s Hudson Institute in October 2018. “China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the western Pacific . . . But they will fail,” the vice-president declared. “We will not be intimidated and we will not stand down.” Pointing to China’s political system, Mr Pence argued: “A country that oppresses its own people rarely stops there.”

For students of the first cold war between the US and the USSR, some of this sounded eerily and worryingly familiar. Once again, the US is facing off against a rival superpower. Once again, a military rivalry is taking shape — although this time, the main theatre is the western Pacific rather than central Europe. And once again, the conflict is being framed as one between the free world and a dictatorship. To add to the sense of symmetry, the People’s Republic of China, like the Soviet Union, is run by a Communist party.

Even in the past few months, the deterioration in relations between the US and China has rapidly gathered pace, against the backdrop of a feverish election campaign in the US. Military tensions in the Pacific are rising. Taiwanese officials say the September exercises by the Chinese military within its air defence buffer zone were the most significant threat to its security since Beijing launched missiles into the seas around the island in 1996. The US has a commitment to help the country defend itself.

The US has moved aggressively to block Chinese technology firms, such as TikTok and Huawei — from expanding their international operations, or buying US-made computer chips. China and America are even indulging in tit-for-tat expulsions of journalists.

And coronavirus, which originated in China, has devastated the global economy and led to more than 200,000 deaths in America. President Donald Trump, who is currently in hospital after testing positive for the virus, has made it clear that he holds the government of China directly responsible for the pandemic.

In another confrontational speech that will probably be remembered by historians, secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned in July that five decades of engagement with China had been a failure.

New cold war

In a series of articles this week, the FT explores how the US-China rivalry is beginning to resemble a new cold war, with the technology world splitting into two blocs and countries being asked to choose sides.

“If we don’t act now, ultimately, the [Chinese Communist party] will erode our freedoms and subvert the rules-based order that our free societies have worked so hard to build,” he said, speaking at the Californian library of Richard Nixon, the president who reopened ties with Beijing during the cold war. “The old paradigm of blind engagement with China simply won’t get it done. We must not continue it. We must not return to it.”

New uncertainty

For Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard University and former senior Pentagon official, US-China relations are now “at their lowest point in 50 years”.

There is even a fear that, as in the cold war, the world could increasingly divide into two blocs — one that looks to Washington and one that looks to Beijing. That may sound implausible in a world of globalised supply chains. But, especially in the tech sector, there are signs that this is already starting to happen.

As the Huawei case illustrates, the US is now clearly leaning on its allies to cut tech ties with China — and, in some cases, such as in Britain and, to an extent, Germany, the pressure is working. China, however, is also building its own global network of influence through trade and its Belt and Road Initiative — which could involve loans and investment of up to $1tn in infrastructure development outside China.

Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state who helped bring about the rapprochement between the US and China in the 1970s, said last year that Beijing and Washington were now in the “foothills of a cold war”.

If China’s growing technological prowess has captured US attention this year, its defence capabilities are also driving the growing anxiety. China’s rapid military build-up has altered the balance of power between Beijing and Washington. The Chinese navy now has more ships than the US navy — and they can all be concentrated in the western Pacific. China has also developed a formidable range of missile and satellite weaponry that could threaten American aircraft carriers and disrupt the US military’s communications.

In a recent article, Michèle Flournoy, who is tipped as a possible US defence secretary if Joe Biden wins the presidential election, worried that “dangerous new uncertainty about the US ability to check various Chinese moves . . . could invite risk-taking by Chinese leaders”, adding: “They could conclude that they should move on Taiwan sooner rather than later.”

Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China has become more assertive overseas and more authoritarian at home

Ms Flournoy’s recommendation is that America should strengthen its military capacity, so as to restore deterrence. The fact that a prominent Democrat is taking this position points to an important aspect of the new US-China rivalry: it will not disappear if Mr Trump loses the White House in the presidential election.

There is no doubt that the current US president uses much more confrontational language with China (and indeed most countries) than any of his predecessors. Mr Trump’s single-minded focus on the US trade deficit with China and his protectionist policies are also distinctive. But Mr Trump may have helped to bring about a permanent shift in orthodox opinion in Washington. Daniel Yergin, an economic historian, notes that “while Democrats and Republicans hardly agree on anything today in Washington, one thing they do agree on is that China is a global competitor and that the two countries are in a technology race”.

A Biden approach to China would place more emphasis on American alliances than the Trump administration, and would probably make less use of tariffs. The Democrats would also look to work with China on climate change. But a Biden administration would not alter the basic premise of the Trump policy — which is that China is now an adversary.

In Beijing, this move towards a “cold war mentality” is decried — and is often attributed solely to America’s supposed refusal to accept a multipolar world. It probably is the case that there is a bipartisan determination in Washington to retain America’s status as “number one”. But the Chinese view skates over the extent to which Beijing itself has contributed to the emergence of a second cold war.

Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China has become more assertive overseas and more authoritarian at home. Beijing’s construction of military bases across the South China Sea has been perceived in Washington as a direct challenge to American power in the Pacific. Constitutional changes that would allow Mr Xi to rule for life, the crackdown in Hong Kong and the mass imprisonment of the Uighur minority have all driven home the message that China is becoming more dictatorial — dashing any remaining hopes in Washington that economic modernisation in China would lead to political liberalisation.

Winston Churchill delivering his speech ‘The sinews of peace’ at Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 is remembered as a key moment in the outbreak of the cold war © Popperfoto via Getty

An increasingly wealthy, illiberal and aggressive China is much easier to see as a dangerous rival that needs to be confronted. In public the Chinese leadership continues to decry the “zero-sum thinking” of the Americans. In private, however, the Xi leadership seems to regard the US as a dangerous rival, intent on overthrowing Communist party rule. As long ago as 2014, Wang Jisi, a well-connected Beijing academic, wrote that China’s leadership was preoccupied by “alleged US schemes to subvert the Chinese government”.

If continuing rivalry between the US and China is inevitable, how do the two sides match up?

It is generally acknowledged that the military gap between Washington and Beijing has narrowed considerably. But the US has a network of allies that China cannot replicate. There is no “Beijing Pact” to rival the Warsaw Pact that once bolstered the Soviet Union. On the contrary, other key powers in the Indo-Pacific region are treaty allies of the US, including Japan, South Korea and Australia. And India, while it is not a formal ally of the US, is likely to tilt towards Washington following the recent deadly confrontations between Indian and Chinese troops on the two nations’ disputed border.

US president Donald Trump, left, has made it clear that he holds the government of China directly responsible for the coronavirus pandemic © Andy Wong/AP

However, if America stood aside in the event of a Chinese assault on Taiwan, then the US alliance system might not survive the shock. Conversely, if the rivalry between Beijing and Washington never escalates into military confrontation, then China has other assets it can deploy. It is the largest trading partner for more than 100 nations; compared with 57 nations for America.

China is also a plausible rival to the US in a tech race. It is clear that some Chinese tech firms are vulnerable to cut-offs of key American components — in particular computer chips and semiconductors. On the other hand, China is ahead in certain technologies, such as mobile payments, and it is a formidable competitor in other areas such as artificial intelligence and medicine.

A scientific rivalry between America and China is certainly reminiscent of the US-Soviet rivalry, which was driven by a space race.

Vice-president Mike Pence said at Washington’s Hudson Institute in October 2018: ‘China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the western Pacific . . . But they will fail’ © Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Integrated rivals

But while the parallels between the current US-China rivalry and the start of the cold war are striking, there are also some important differences. The most obvious is that the economies of the US and China are deeply integrated with each other. Trade between China and the US amounts to more than half a trillion dollars a year. China owns more than $1tn of US debt. Important American companies rely on making and selling their products in China. Manufacture of the Apple iPhone is built around a supply chain based in southern China. There are more Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the PRC than in the US.

This economic intertwining has also created a degree of social convergence. China may be run by a Communist party, but its major cities are throbbing with commercial life, private enterprise and western brands, and could never be mistaken for the grey uniformity of Soviet Russia. “Chinese society is more similar to American society than Soviet society ever was,” Yale University historian Odd Arne Westad noted in Foreign Affairs magazine.

There are also strong scientific and educational ties between China and the US. Mr Xi’s daughter was educated at Harvard. Stalin’s daughter was not sent to Yale.

China is also a plausible competitor to the US in a tech race, reminiscent of the US-Soviet rivalry driven by a space race © Aleksandar plaveski/EPA-EFE

Given the levels of economic and social integration between the US and China, some scholars argue that the cold war may not be the best historical analogy — although some of the other potential comparisons are no less alarming. Margaret Macmillan, who has written a history of the origins of the first world war, thinks the “more important parallel is the UK and Germany before 1914”. This was a classic great power rivalry between an established and a rising power. At the time, some argued that the extent of economic integration between Germany and Britain made war both irrational and unlikely. But that did not prevent the two nations sliding into hostilities.

Mr Westad, an expert both on China and the cold war, points out that, unlike the Soviet people in 1946, the Chinese have enjoyed 40 years of peace and prosperity. Therefore, “in a crisis, the Chinese are more likely to resemble the Germans in 1914 than the Russians after the second world war — excitable, rather than exhausted,” he says.

A yearning to test and demonstrate national strength is certainly visible in nationalist circles in China. Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times newspaper, tweeted in July that China “is fully capable of destroying all of Taiwan’s military installations within a few hours, before seizing the island shortly after. Chinese army & people have such self-confidence.”

The Chinese navy now has more ships than the US navy, and they can all be concentrated in the western Pacific © Reuters

Another historical analogy, less discussed in the west but often heard in Tokyo, is the clash between Imperial Japan and the US that reached an endpoint in the second world war. As a senior Japanese diplomat sees it: “The Chinese are making the same mistake we made, which is to challenge American hegemony in the Pacific.” But at the time of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese economy was just 10 per cent the size of America’s. China, by contrast, now has an economy that is two-thirds the size of America’s — and larger when measured by purchasing power.

There is one further aspect in which the comparison between modern China and the Japan of the 1930s is suggestive. Imperial Japan argued that it was liberating Asia from western imperialism (countries invaded by the Japanese, such as China and Korea, did not see it that way). There is a similar hint of a “clash of civilisations” in some Chinese nationalist discourse — in which the rise of China is portrayed as ending centuries of domination of the global order by white, western nations.

The Anglo-German rivalry and the US-Japanese confrontation culminated in war. But they broke out in an age before nuclear weapons. By contrast, the threat of nuclear annihilation defined the cold war. Perhaps as a result, US and Soviet forces never clashed directly during the cold war, although they often battled through proxies. Yan Xuetong, a prominent scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has argued that fear of nuclear conflict makes it unlikely that China and America will ever go to war — which would make the current US-Chinese confrontation more like the cold war, than the run-up to the two world wars.

Michèle Flournoy, tipped as a possible US defence secretary if Trump loses the election, said the US should strengthen its military capacity to restore deterrence . . .  © Mark Wilson/Getty

. . . suggesting the new US-China rivalry will not disappear if Democrat Joe Biden enters the White House  © Kevin Dietsch/Bloomberg

Strength of systems

But perhaps the most intriguing comparison is about how the cold war ended, rather than how it began. The contest was not settled on the battlefield or in space. In the end, it was determined by the relative resilience and success of the two societies — the US and the USSR.

Ultimately, the Soviet system simply collapsed under the weight of its own internal problems. (Ironically, this was the fate that Communists had long predicted for the capitalist system). The USSR’s fate vindicated the strategy first sketched out by the American diplomat George Kennan, who in 1946 had advocated the patient containment of Soviet power while awaiting the system’s ultimate demise. Kennan also argued that the vitality of America’s own system would be crucial in any contest with the USSR.

It is this last comparison which should disquiet the Americans and their allies most. The current presidential election threatens to provoke a crisis in the American democratic system of a sort that has not been seen since the 19th century. Even if the US achieves the peaceful transition of power that Mr Trump has failed to guarantee, the Trump era has revealed social and economic divisions that have turned America inwards and damaged the country’s international prestige.

A yearning to test and demonstrate national strength is certainly visible in nationalist circles in China © Thomas Peter/Reuters

The spectacle of the Trump-Biden contest has strengthened the sense in China that the US is in decline. Eric Li, a trustee of the China Institute at Shanghai’s Fudan University, inverts the cold war analogy — by casting the US as the USSR, in the grip of an “existential brawl between two near octogenarians”, referring to Mr Trump and Mr Biden. “Remember [former Soviet rulers] Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko?” By contrast, according to Mr Li, “China today is the opposite of what the USSR was decades ago. It is practical, ascendant and globally connected.”

For all the confidence of pro-government intellectuals in China, like Mr Li, there is no doubt that Mr Xi’s China also has significant internal problems. As Mr Westad notes, it is “a de facto empire that tries to behave as if it were a nation-state” and the strains are showing from Hong Kong to Tibet to Xinjiang. But the PRC has also demonstrated an economic prowess that the USSR never possessed.

If the US and China are indeed embarking on a new cold war to determine which country will dominate the 21st century, the vitality of their domestic systems may ultimately determine who prevails.

The nuclear deal unravels: Revelation 16

October 2020

By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

As the clock winds down on the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, the United States and Russia remain locked in a stalemate with numerous obstacles blocking the path to prolonging the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration will only contemplate a short-term extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) if Russia agrees to a framework for a new trilateral treaty that verifiably covers all nuclear warheads, includes those of China in the future, and makes changes to the painstakingly negotiated New START verification regime.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov arrives for nuclear talks with U.S. officials in Vienna on June 22. The discussions yielded little progress, and more recently he said “there are no grounds for any kind of deal in the form proposed.” (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Moscow, which supports an unconditional five-year extension of the treaty, has called the U.S. proposal “absolutely unrealistic.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “there are no grounds for any kind of deal in the form proposed” by Washington in a Sept. 21 interview with Kommersant. New START permits an extension of up to five years so long as the U.S. and Russian presidents agree.

The U.S. approach raises several questions, such as whether the Trump administration is actually interested in extending New START at all, what the United States would be willing to put on the negotiating table in exchange for concessions from Russia, and why the administration believes that withholding an extension of the treaty provides the United States leverage in negotiations.

With Russia showing little sign of agreeing to the framework, the Trump administration will soon face the choice of whether to extend the treaty as is or set it on a path to expiration in February, which could trigger a costly arms race.

The Trump administration has also suggested that, if Russia does not agree to framework prior to the U.S. presidential election in November, Washington will tack on additional conditions for New START extension. What those conditions would be are unknown.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that if he is elected president in November and New START has not been extended, he will pursue the treaty’s extension and “use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements,” according to his campaign website.

Marshall Billingslea, U.S. special envoy for arms control, told Kommersant on Sept. 21 that if Russia does not agree to the Trump administration’s framework, the United States will not extend New START. Billingslea also threatened that the United States would increase the deployed strategic arsenal “immediately after the expiration of the treaty in February.”

The U.S. insistence on the framework and refusal to extend New START without unilateral concessions by Moscow has prompted some skeptics to wonder whether the Trump administration is attempting to set Russia and China up to take the blame for an expiration of the treaty.

U.S. officials said that, with four months until New START expires on Feb. 5, 2021, sufficient time remains for Russia to agree to the U.S. offer before a decision must be made on an extension. Yet even if Russia were open to discussions with the United States on its demands, negotiating the specifics of a framework could take weeks if not months.

In addition, according to officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow might need months to process a “technical extension” of the treaty.

Billingslea has claimed that the United States has significant leverage because Russia is desperate for an extension of the treaty. But Russia has said that it desires an extension of the treaty only as much as the United States and will not pursue an extension at any cost.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in July that, if the Trump administration does not agree to extend New START, “we will not insist.”

Extending the treaty for a period of less than five years, as the Trump administration is contemplating, also poses risks. Negotiations on arms control treaties are difficult and time consuming. A new agreement along the lines proposed by the Trump administration could take years.

Billingslea has declined to say how long an extension the administration has proposed, telling Kommersant that it “depends on how flexible the Russian leadership will be.”

Moreover, assuming Moscow would even agree to multiple short-term extensions totaling less than five years, preparing and posturing for such extensions could distract from the broader talks the administration says it seeks.

Although any framework agreement is likely to require mutual concessions from Washington and Moscow, the Trump administration refuses to detail what it would be willing to put on the negotiating table, besides a short-term extension of New START, in order to secure Russia’s agreement.

Russia has long said that it prioritizes the inclusion of U.S. allies France and the United Kingdom in arms control discussions. In addition, Moscow seeks to capture other factors it deems essential to maintaining strategic stability, such as missile defense, ground-based short- and intermediate-range missiles, space weapons, and hypersonic weapons.

Billingslea, however, has dismissed the idea of including limits on U.S. missile defenses, involving France and the UK in multilateral talks, and removing U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.

The Trump administration also has yet to describe what it would be willing to do in order to bring China to the table. Billingslea told CNN on Sept. 18 that Russia could persuade China to join talks, although Moscow has previously refused to do so.

“It’s [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” he said. “He’s got all kinds of leverage. If they really wanted to help, they could.”

China has repeatedly declined to join trilateral arms control talks with the United States and Russia. The only way that Beijing would join, said Fu Cong, director-general of the Chinese Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, in July, was if the United States decreased its nuclear arsenal to the size of China’s. (See ACT, September 2020.) The United States has an estimated 6,000 nuclear weapons, including retired warheads; China’s arsenal numbers in the low 200s, according to a U.S. Defense Department report in September.

Billingslea claims that the verification regime put into place by New START suffers from significant loopholes and deficiencies, such as the absence of sufficient exchanges of missile telemetry and the limited frequency of on-site inspection.

The U.S. military, however, places great value on the treaty’s inspections and has not indicated that such flaws exist. Vice Adm. David Kriete, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in July 2019 that “those verification procedures that the U.S. gets to execute all the time provide great insight into Russia’s capabilities, numbers, and all kinds of things associated with their nuclear weapons.” If those procedures disappeared, he said, then “we would have to go look for other ways to fill in the gaps.”

Rose Gottemoeller, chief U.S. negotiator for New START, also emphasized the importance of New START’s verification setup, saying that it used what worked in previous treaties and discarded those elements that previously encountered issues with implementation. “In the end,” she said in May, “the United States got what it wanted in the New START verification regime: streamlined inspection procedures at a sufficient level of detail to be effectively implemented.”

Although the Trump administration has expressed its willingness to let New START expire, members of Congress continue their calls for the treaty’s five-year extension.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent a Sept. 8 letter to Trump calling for the United States to extend New START.

According to an internal State Department report for Congress obtained by Foreign Policy in September, U.S. allies are “concerned about the potential repercussions to the international security environment should New START expire before its full term.”

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have continued a pause on inspections under New START and a postponement of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), which oversees implementation of the treaty.

“The United States is studying how and when to resume inspections and the BCC while mitigating the risk of COVID-19 to all U.S. and Russian personnel,” a State Department spokesperson told Arms Control Today. “The United States continues to implement and abide by” New START.

New START caps the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers each.

Iraq should prepare for a catastrophe

US withdrawal from Iraq would be ‘catastrophic’, says PM Kadhimi

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has warned that a US withdrawal would be “catastrophic for Iraq,” after reports that the US was considering closing its embassy in Baghdad.

In the past two months, there have been more than 40 attacks on the US embassy and military bases, and on supply convoys of Iraqi contractors for Washington and its allies.

As a result, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy in Baghdad within weeks if Iraq failed to stop Iranian-backed militias attacking American people and posts.

Iraq had not received any such warning, and “will not accept any warnings from any country”, Mr Al Kadhimi told state news channel Al Ikhbaria.

“We felt that the Americans were annoyed at the number of attacks that have targeted their diplomatic missions in Iraq and this is their right,” he said.

“There are sides who are attempting to sabotage Iraq’s relationship with the world, taking the country towards the unknown.”

In recent months, rockets have repeatedly been launched across the Tigris in attacks on the heavily fortified US and foreign diplomatic compound.

But Mr Al Kadhimi said Iraq had shown its seriousness to the US about stopping the attacks and arresting the perpetrators.

“The consequences of a US withdrawal, if it would happen, would be catastrophic for Iraq, especially as it would result in an economic crisis that has never been seen before,” he said.

Washington blames Iran-backed militias for firing rockets at its embassy on a near-weekly basis for months, and for shelling Iraqi bases housing international troops, including many of the 5,000 US soldiers.

A rocket landed near Baghdad airport last week, killing three civilians and wounding two, security officials said.

The US bases its relations on its interests, Mr Al Kadhimi said, and Iraq must also ensure its interests are protected in all fields.

“We are not ashamed of any relationship that preserves the dignity of Iraq and the Iraqis,” he said.

Last week populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called for a joint committee to look at ways of halting attacks by militias on diplomatic outposts, which was welcomed by politicians in the country.

Mr Al Sadr, whose Mahdi Army once fought US troops in Iraq, said that “given the seriousness of the security situation that threatens the country’s present and future, we find it is an urgent interest to form a committee of security, military and parliamentary nature”.

He said that the aim must be to halt attacks on diplomats as it “harms Iraq’s reputation in international forums.”

Mr Al Kadhimi’s remarks came as Iraqi Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, warned Mr Pompeo that a US pullout would not be in the interest of the Iraqi people.

“The government has taken a number of measures to halt attacks on the Green Zone and Baghdad airport,” he said, adding that there will be “positive results” seen in the near future.

Mr Pompeo said that relations between the two countries were crucial for the futures of both.

Updated: October 5, 2020 03:23 AM

The next intifada outside the temple walls: Revelation 11

Two decades after the second intifada, what have we learned?

Amos Harel and HaaretzOctober 4, 2020

(Haaretz) — The 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the second intifada, marked on September 29, the day after Yom Kippur, took place during a period that somewhat resembles the days of the exploding buses. The current terrible stretch, too, is characterized by a general malaise, great personal concerns and questions about when everything will be over.

A lot, of course, is different; most of the people dying today are older (and children hardly ever), whereas suicide bombers don’t discriminate among age groups and segments of society.

My five years of intensively covering the intifada, from Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount to the Gaza disengagement — the practical end of that period, and one of its key results — leads to a key conclusion: The intifada reshaped Israel’s political map.

The years of the suicide attacks left deep psychological and political vestiges among Israelis, amid a long collective repression. Only a few books and documentaries have discussed these dramatic years.

The intifada barely features in action movies either, but its effects are obvious. The intifada left behind great anxiety about personal security, something reflected in every general election.

One could argue that here lies the secret of Benjamin Netanyahu and the right wing’s prolonged success. The Oslo Accords, which were foiled for a host of reasons, have been depicted as a failure that must not be repeated.

The prevailing narrative is that whenever Israel withdraws from land, either unilaterally or as part of an agreement, the territory evacuated becomes a launching pad for more attacks (the West Bank cities under Oslo, the withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza pullout). At least until Netanyahu’s corruption indictments, personal and family security have been a main factor in determining how people vote.

The left had no real response to the scars left by the suicide bombings. Over the years of relative calm except for the occasional offensive in Gaza, Netanyahu managed to brand himself the great defender of Israelis (so he said in interviews on how he wanted to go down in history). Hatred and fear of “the Arabs” peaked during this period of attacks and explain a raft of long-range phenomena, from a majority of ultra-Orthodox voters identifying with the right to the rise of violent far-right groups such as La Familia.

Moreover, beyond the ideological differences that blocked a peace agreement with the Palestinians during the intifada (the future of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees) the basic issue remained: a significant lack of trust on both sides, both among the politicians and the voters. Some issues may have been overcome, but the mutual fears that were cemented by the intifada remain 15 years later.

A video of Sharon from 2005 has been circulating on social media: The then-prime minister attacks Netanyahu, then a cabinet member. Beyond the enmity between the two, Sharon says you need “nerves of steel and rationality” to be a leader.

Sharon was also under a cloud of corruption suspicions, and his son Omri even went to prison over an issue in which Sharon was also mired. But you can’t ignore that Sharon navigated Israeli policy at the time, for better and worse.

He made all the critical decisions: to operate in the Palestinian inner cities and refugee camps, and to stop the terror machine in the West Bank — the height of this effort was Operation Defensive Shield in March 2002. He severed contacts with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (and decided against assassinating him after long indecision). He got the separation barrier started; finally, came the disengagement.

Debates still rage about many of Sharon’s decisions, but he was definitely a leader with nerves of steel who shaped the contours of the conflict. Sharon didn’t change his opinion every week under the sway of public or political pressure. Defensive Shield and the operations that followed reduced the terrorism to a tolerable level.

The boycott of Arafat also swayed the U.S. administration under George W. Bush and led to the rise of a more moderate Palestinian leadership after Arafat died in 2004. The separation barrier, though Sharon insisted on moving it east at the expense of Palestinian land, left the Green Line as a basis for negotiation.

The disengagement was a historic step that, despite the rise of Hamas and the operations that followed in Gaza, reduced the space for Israeli-Palestinian friction. The right wing’s claim that the Gaza settlements could have been left thriving ignores what went on in the territory before the withdrawal.

Terrorism can be confronted. In the first years after Oslo and at the start of the second intifada, the left would often argue that the Israeli struggle against terrorism was destined to fail because the Palestinians were waging a war for freedom. But the Palestinians’ waging of a struggle without limits — against civilians as well, through the indiscriminate use of suicide bombers on both sides of the Green Line — led to an extraordinary consensus among Israelis on the tough response needed.

In the words of then-military chief Shaul Mofaz, the intifada was a “war on our homes.” The army and the Shin Bet security service used brutal methods, including assassinations and collective punishment. Innocent Palestinian civilians were killed, though for the most part unintentionally. These measures left scars on both sides, and on the generation of Israeli soldiers just after the healing from the wounds of Lebanon. But in the end, they got the Palestinians to rethink their steps.

Arafat’s heir, Mahmoud Abbas, didn’t use terrorism, nor did he justify it, as did his predecessor, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Gradually, Palestinian public support for suicide bombings diminished, whether due to the price paid in the punishment by Israel or the tough reactions in the West, especially after 9/11 and the subsequent attacks in European cities. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad didn’t officially say they would abandon this path, but starting in 2006, the use of suicide bombers declined to a minimum.

The Palestinian issue isn’t going anywhere. Israel’s relative success in fighting terrorism didn’t resolve the Palestinian conflict. Ehud Barak, who with the intifada’s outbreak lost his chance to survive as prime minister, said publicly in October 2000 that there was “no partner” on the Palestinian side after the failure of the Camp David Summit and the fresh violence.

This month, Netanyahu celebrated the signing of accords with two Arab countries, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, despite the frozen Palestinian channel.

But actually, the current period of distance from the Palestinians shows two opposite things. First, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has been a silent partner for security arrangements for nearly 15 years. Proof is the absence of flare-ups in the West Bank during the Gaza offensives of 2008-09, 2012 and 2014, despite their high casualty tolls.

Even when a mini-intifada erupted — the knifings and car-rammings of 2015 — the PA security apparatus helped subdue that wave. In the Strip, Yahya Sinwar seems to be concentrating on easing Gazans’ problems. Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the enclave, was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap nearly a decade ago.

On the two Palestinian fronts, each all but isolated from the other, resistance to Israel hasn’t disappeared. On both fronts, despite the disadvantages of the PA and Hamas, Israel has possible partners to achieve tacit long-range understandings, while the chances of achieving permanent agreements seem at a low point.