Violent Explosions Heard outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Violent Explosions Heard in Gaza, Reports Say

09:00 GMT 26.10.2020(updated 09:50 GMT 26.10.2020)

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Violent explosions were heard in Gaza, the Al-Mayadeen broadcaster reported on Monday.

According to reports, explosive balloons were spotted over Sapir Academic College near Sderot.

Explosives attached to the balloons allegedly detonated in the air. Security officials are tracking the balloons which haven’t detonated, according to the Jerusalem Post.

No further details are available yet.

Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni militant organization in control of the Gaza Strip, has been locked in a protracted on-and-off conflict with Israel, which still refuses to recognize Palestine as an independent political and diplomatic entity. Israel holds Hamas responsible for any attack coming from the Gaza Strip.

The situation escalated in August when Israel faced multiple explosive balloon attacks and responded with airstrikes and tank fire.

The Clout of the Antichrist’s Men Grows

One year after Iraqi protests, pro-Iran militias’ clout is growing | Hammam Latif | AW

BAGHDAD – An Iraqi politician opposed to Iran’s presence in his country spoke of how hard it will be for the popular protests, which have returned to public squares in Baghdad and other provinces, to achieve what he referred to as liberating “kidnapped Iraq” from its Iranian abductors.

Popular protests demanding the restoration of Iraq’s sovereignty  have returned to Iraqi streets on the first anniversary of the largest wave of protests that erupted in various parts of Iraq on October 25 last year.

In this context, the Iraqi politician told The Arab Weekly that “the kidnapped will eventually be freed from the kidnapper, but I do not expect that the current uprising will be able to do that just now. It will be the blood already spilled and which is going to be spilled in the future that will pave the way for the next wave of anger that will free the kidnapped from the kidnapper’s grip.”

The politician, who heads a parliamentary bloc, wondered aloud: “When and how kidnapped Iraq will be freed” and then answered wishfully, “it won’t be long.”

On Sunday, Tahrir Square in the Iraqi capital filled up once again with demonstrators who flocked from different parts of the capital and other  provinces from the early hours of the morning. Minor skirmishes took place between protesters and security forces in two secondary sites where demonstrators had gathered, near Allawi Garage and al-Sinak Bridge in central Baghdad.

The protest sites were filled with pictures of many politicians, with an “X” mark plastered on them to mark protesters’ opposition to them continuing to be at the forefront of the Iraqi scene. Groups of students flocked to Tahrir Square, in scenes reminiscent of a year ago when thousands of youth in university uniforms marched demanding the return of their homeland.

Although the October protests toppled the government of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and forced the pro-Iranian Shia political forces to let go of their traditional control over appointing the prime minister, allowing Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a non-partisan figure, to head the government, the resulting vacuum turned into an opportunity for new Iranian hegemony over Iraq, represented this time by the growing influence of militia leaders, most of which came under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

At some point, the October 2019 protests seemed to have forced the leaders of the pro-Iranian militias providing a safety belt for Abdul-Mahdi’s government to take one step back. This was confirmed by the emergence of Kadhimi, a person from outside the circles of the political class, which is accused of corruption, mismanagement and embezzlement of public money, as a candidate for the most important position in the country.

Although Kadhimi’s appointment raised hope for change, his experience at the helm of the government has so far proven that change in Iraq is difficult to achieve. Events during his term have revealed the scope of pro-Iranian militias’ influence and the grave dangers involving open confrontation with them.

Since the formation of the Kadhimi government last May, Iraqis have been waiting for action to be taken against the militias allied with the most corrupt leaders in order to restore the country’s sovereignty, but this has yet to happen.

The problem is that pro-Iranian militia leaders, such as Qais Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, Abu Ali al-Askari, leader of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, Akram al-Kaabi, leader of the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia and Abu al-Wala’i, leader of the militia of the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades, have succeeded in filling the vacuum left by the departure of the traditional Shia political figures, such as Nuri al-Maliki, Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim, who faded into the background ounder pressure from the October protests.

A female Iraqi demonstrator takes part in  a gathering to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq, October 25. (REUTERS)

When Kadhimi tried to act in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and deal militarily with the militia groups that were firing Katyusha rockets at foreign missions, airports and army camps in various parts of Iraq, Khazali advised him to “look the other way,” in a clear indication that the chief executive in Iraq must know his limits.

But Kadhimi ignored Khazali’s advice and ordered a counterterrorism force to raid a militia headquarters near Baghdad Airport used for launching Katyusha rockets, where they caught a group of militia members planning to attack the US Embassy red-handed.

This operation was an indication of Kadhimi’s defiant approach but it was a short-lived victory. In an impressive show of force, the militias threatened to liquidate the families of the officers and investigators who were dealing with the case, and the arrested individuals eventually walked free.

The whole incident was a telling example of the growing influence and power of the pro-Iranian militias and of the impossibility of dealing with them with the tools at the government’s disposal.

Those events occurred during the first few weeks of Kadhimi’s premiership, and since then all hope for profound change in Iraqi politics has gradually faded, in parallel with militias’ transformation into the most powerful representative of political Shi’ism in Iraq, supported by Iranian momentum fuelled by Tehran’s need for a violent ally in Baghdad to serve the purposes of its showdown with the United States.

Analysts believe that the current real confrontation in Baghdad is not between the demonstrators and the government, against which they are supposed to protest, but between the government and the militias that insist on keeping their weapons outside the framework of the state, threatening diplomatic missions, controlling government projects and the allocation of their related contracts and implementing demographic change projects in many regions of the country.

In the protest squares now, confusion prevails regarding the nature of the demands that the renewed protest movement must adopt.

Over the past year, it has become clear that a change from within the regime will not be the solution to Iraq’s piled up crises, making the protesters certain they were right to have demanded the end of the whole regime. All Iraqis agree that their country is under Iranian domination. Iran, for its part, has dealt with the Kadhimi government as a front to move to a new stage of its hegemony, which ushers in the rise to power of militias as a substitute for political parties.

Observers considered that the truce between the Kadhimi government and the militias reflects the prime minister and his government’s acknowledgement that they operate in one space while the militias have the right to move freely in another space, which is the state and all of its institutions. The upshot of this arrangement is that the government is effectively stripped of its ability to run the state and driven by fear of being overtly overthrown by the militias

The China horn balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks: Daniel 7

China balks at U.S. efforts for nuclear arms talks

Ramesh Thakur

Sep 30, 2020

Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China. Nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. | REUTERS

During the Cold War, the nuclear landscape was dominated by the globe-spanning U.S.–Soviet bipolar rivalry. Russia and the United States still account for over 90 percent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. The emerging strategic rivalry, however, is between the U.S. as the weakening hegemon and China as the rising comprehensive national power. This is why Washington decided it could no longer ignore the nuclear challenge to its interests in the vast Indo–Pacific maritime space posed by China’s absence from the missile prohibitions of the INF treaty. About 95 percent of China’s missiles are in the INF range, enabling it to target forward-deployed U.S. forces and allied territory, including Japan, Guam and Australia, with relatively inexpensive precision-strike conventional capability.

Without INF restrictions, the U.S. can develop and station ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missiles in Guam, Japan, South Korea, and northern Australia that could reach deep into China’s interior. However, the search for Pacific allies prepared to host intermediate range conventional U.S. missiles aimed at China will be challenging, with the downsides in bilateral relations with China and domestic political opposition likely to outweigh potential military advantages.

Speaking after the INF’s demise in August last year, U.S. President Donald Trump said he wanted Beijing to be party to any new nuclear pact with Moscow. China has rejected requests to save the INF by trilateralizing it. Its stockpile of 320 nuclear warheads is not comparable to 6,375 Russian and 5,800 U.S. warheads. On Aug. 6, 2019, Disarmament Ambassador Li Song expressed China’s deep regret and opposition to the “irresponsible unilateral” U.S. withdrawal from the INF. On the same day Fu Cong, director of arms control in China’s Foreign Ministry, cautioned Asia-Pacific countries against permitting INF-ranged missiles to be deployed on their territory.

In an agenda-resetting speech in October 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence outlined a thick catalog of predatory practices and aggressive behavior across a broad front by China. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated the administration’s strategic approach to China in a speech on July 23, depicting China as an existential threat and calling for “a new alliance of democracies.” Where then-President Ronald Reagan had based his arms control dealings with the Soviet Union on the bon mot “trust but verify,” Pompeo said with China’s communist regime, “we must distrust and verify.”

At a news conference on Jan. 22, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang bluntly rejected U.S. calls for trilateral arms control talks: “The U.S. constantly makes an issue of China on this to dodge and shift its responsibilities for nuclear disarmament.” Beijing has concluded that Trump doesn’t believe in arms control is scapegoating China to pursue his real goal of dissolving the existing U.S.–Russia nuclear arms control regime in order for his country to compete more effectively with China. Nuclear analyst Tong Zhao explains: “China views the U.S. push for trilateral arms control as purely insincere, hypocritical, and hostile against China.” Beijing is also suspicious of arms control as a tool for the strong to undermine the security of the weak.

Washington has remained persistent. In May the new presidential senior envoy on arms control, Marshall Billingslea, expressed interest in a new far-reaching accord to limit all Chinese, Russian, and U.S. nuclear warheads, including those on short-range delivery systems and those kept in storage. This would replace New START but would also require very intrusive verification measures to cover stockpiles. It will be challenging either to persuade China to accept significantly lower numbers of warheads than Russia and the U.S., or alternatively to persuade Moscow and Washington to permit China to reach parity. A third way doesn’t exist. Fu Cong said, “if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China will be happy to participate the next day.” However, “we know that’s not going to happen.”

Especially when Beijing perceives U.S. policy as being increasingly aggressive and aimed at containing China, nuclear forces are seen as the ultimate guarantor of national security. To the Chinese, U.S. refusal to acknowledge mutual vulnerability and efforts to enhance damage-limitation and long-range precision strike capabilities signal a higher nuclear risk threshold. This is an updated version of the classic security dilemma where one side’s defense-cum-deterrence preparedness to bolster national security is perceived by the other side as strengthened offensive capability and hence a threat to its security. This is why China has warned against the development and deployment of missile defense systems that could trigger a “high-tech arms race” which aggravates “the international strategic imbalance.”

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the militantly nationalistic Global Times, argues that “China needs to expand the number of its nuclear warheads to 1,000 in a relatively short time and procure at least 100 DF-41 strategic missiles.” But Zhao responded: “If China were to significantly build up its nuclear arsenal, it would seriously damage its international image and potentially threaten the efficacy and stability of the international nonproliferation regime.” This would undermine China’s “own interest in maintaining regional and international stability.” He notes that China successfully safeguarded its national security against far superior numbers of U.S. and Soviet nuclear warheads during the Cold War. Its current nuclear technological prowess is comparable to Russia and the U.S., and it has hugely better survivability and counter-attack capabilities compared to its assets during the Cold War. Zhao’s warning that “a major expansion of nuclear weapons may bring more fear than respect” deserves to be taken to heart by all nuclear-armed states.

China’s stockpile has remained stable over decades, despite fluctuations in Russian and U.S. numbers, because Beijing doesn’t believe nuclear weapons can be used militarily to fight a war. Rather, they are political weapons to deter nuclear attack and prevent nuclear blackmail. This permits China to adopt asymmetric deterrence postures vis‑a‑vis the U.S. with significantly lower stockpiles. Instead of engaging in a sprint to parity that would fuel the nuclear arms race, China relies on buttressing the survivability and penetrability of its nuclear forces. For example greater maneuverability of the DF-21D missiles makes it difficult for enemy weapons to intercept them, while enhancing the precision of their munitions makes it easier to target moving enemy vessels with them. Multilateral nuclear arms control agreements will have to accommodate the asymmetries in numbers and types of warheads and missiles, doctrines and force postures as they affect the relative military balance of the countries concerned.

Ramesh Thakur is an emeritus professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

America Will Say Nyet to Any Nuclear Warhead Freeze Russia Wants

America Should Set Nyet to Any Nuclear Warhead Freeze Russia Wants | The National Interest

Russia is only open to a nuclear freeze because they are nearly done modernizing their nuclear force. Freezing the U.S. nuclear force as-is would be catastrophic.

Even a one-year temporary freeze may have detrimental consequences as the Defense Department warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that nuclear modernization was at a “tipping point” in September.

The latest New START negotiations have mirrored the Soviet Union’s strategic use of arms control. The Soviets would threaten aggression when the United States began outpacing their technology, scaring the West into negotiations. The negotiations would drag out or result in the West reducing their forces. Once the Soviets caught up, talks would fall apart, or they would simply cheat on an existing agreement.

Arms control is worth pursuing if it serves American national-security interests. Since Russia has continued the Soviet tradition of cheating on almost every-arms control agreement to date, that is unlikely. A nuclear freeze is not a diplomatic victory, it could be the death knell of the U.S. nuclear triad.

Morgan Wirthlin is the Chief of Staff at the Center for Security Policy, a national security think-tank in Washington, D.C. Follow her @morganwirthlin on Twitter.

Image: Reuters

Zeta is the hurricane of God‘s wrath: Jeremiah 23

Zeta strengthens into a hurricane before hitting Mexico; US landfall expected Wednesday

N’DEA YANCEY-BRAGG AND DOYLE RICE | USA TODAY | 3 minutes ago

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Zeta, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at 2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. ET).

NOAA/NESDIS/STAR via AP

A “dangerous” storm surge is expected to raise water levels by 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels along the coast in the hurricane warning area near where the center is set to make landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

The Mexican government issued a hurricane warning for the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Dzilam, including Cozumel, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for south of Tulum, west of Dzilam and Pinar del Rio, Cuba.

Local authorities are taking the storm seriously, but with a distinctly less alarmed tone than when Hurricane Delta strengthened to a Category 4 storm off the coast three weeks ago. 

Forecasters urged residents from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle to monitor the storm’s progress as Zeta is expected to be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast. “There is an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, wind and rainfall impacts from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle,” the Hurricane Center said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also urged his state’s citizens, who are recovering from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, to monitor the storm.

Is Zeta forming?: Area near South Florida likely to become next tropical storm

The Hurricane Center said Zeta could bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba on Tuesday before dumping 2 to 4 inches of rain on the Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, potentially causing flooding.

It’s previously been reported that hurricanes are getting stronger, and it seems they’re picking up the pace, too.

Buzz60

Isolated tornadoes will also be a threat in the Southeast for the second half of the week, AccuWeather said. 

Zeta is the 11th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. According to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, only two other Atlantic hurricane seasons on record have had so many hurricanes by Oct. 26: 1950 and 2005.

It is also the 27th named storm of an already historic hurricane season. This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane center has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.

Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone. There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005.

Contributing: The Associated Press