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. (ANI)
Illustration by Guillem Casasús / Rendering by Borja Alegre
November 2, 2020
The Biden team is preparing for the worst. Here are three possible scenarios.
A wretched presidential campaign has played out at last, but Election Day is not how this story ends. Unable to overtake his opponent in the polls, Donald Trump decided months ago to run against the election itself. That race does not conclude when the ballots are counted. Trump has raged against fictional plots to steal his victory, maligning routine procedures such as voting by mail and counting ballots until there are no more to count. His rage will not diminish if he is defeated.
Our electoral system was not built to withstand a sustained assault on its legitimacy. We are capable of defending it, but that is a collective enterprise. A healthy start would be to recognize that the assault has yet to begin in earnest. Election Day and the period to follow will be moments of maximum temptation for Trump. Can he find a way to interfere with the tabulation of votes? Impound ballots in the mail? Dispatch armed personnel to quell alleged disturbances in Democratic neighborhoods?
The battle for American democracy will not be fully joined until the counting starts. That’s when Trump will tell us that his predictions have come true—that the whole procedure is rife with fraud, that the tally is rigged against him, and that no one can be trusted except Trump himself to tell us who won and who lost. The vital questions are whether and how he will try to use his power to subvert the results.
Whether, I think, is easy. We have been over this before. Trump will not concede defeat. He will use every means at his disposal to maintain a grip on power.
From the November 2020 issue: The election that could break America
That qualifier, “at his disposal,” is important. It marks a distinction between wishes and commands that Trump can expect to be carried out. We know Trump’s intent. He is indifferent to any interest but his own and ruthless in its pursuit. What we need to know, in self-defense, is his capability. Trump stands atop a vast apparatus of government, ostensibly under his control but not entirely so in fact.
To move the government, Trump needs to know where the levers are and how to control them. In practice, this means persuading other people to operate the machinery on his behalf. Some of those people would balk at certain kinds of orders.
The Constitution anoints Trump the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States, but he cannot lock up Joe Biden or disqualify him from the race by executive order, no matter how much he yearns publicly to do so. He is commander in chief of the armed forces, but he cannot declare martial law, delay the election, and expect the troops to go along. The men and women he likes to call “my generals” would not obey.
What, then, can Trump do?
In public, Biden and his senior advisers profess full confidence in the electoral system to work as it always has. Every vote will be counted, they say, and the winner will be sworn in on January 20—end of story.
Behind the scenes, they are preparing for the worst. A special working group of high-powered lawyers led by three former solicitors general—Walter Dellinger; Donald B. Verrilli Jr.; and a recent addition, Seth Waxman—has overseen a massive planning exercise for rapid responses to dozens of scenarios in which Trump tries to interfere with the normal functioning of the election. Thousands of pages of legal analysis, according to an authoritative campaign source, have been boiled down into “template pleadings” for at least 49 predrafted emergency motions in state or federal court. The campaign will be ready on an hour’s notice to file for a temporary restraining order in any case it has thus far been able to anticipate.
“There’s no question that the Biden campaign has worked through every imaginable scenario and is certainly prepared—legally, at least—for any of these possibilities,” says Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional-law professor at NYU. Nothing Trump might do “would surprise the enormous legal team they’ve created to deal with twists and turns in the election. I assure you they’ve thought of more scenarios than the media would ever get to.”
The Biden team says it is ready even for scenarios it is sure will “never happen, and we’re not worried about it,” a Biden-campaign lawyer told me. “There have been a couple of lawsuits challenging Kamala Harris’s eligibility to be vice president,” he said. “Do we have stuff on that? Yeah. Do I think we have to worry about it? Absolutely not.”
Preparations for other cases feel more urgent, he said. Biden advisers (some of whom requested anonymity so that they could discuss this work) and independent experts I spoke with have gamed out multiple scenarios, with variations of law and circumstance, in which Trump sends forces to seize—or segregate, or intercept—ballots before they can be counted. Some of the scenarios seem far-fetched, others less so. Here are three they have taken seriously, along with reasons to doubt that Trump can pull them off. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Command of U.S. armed forces is among the most potent powers of any president. Could Trump dispatch active-duty forces to Democratic strongholds in swing states—say, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee—with intent to suppress the vote or interfere with the count?
In a recent Atlantic story, I speculated on the possibility:
Suppose that caravans of Trump supporters, adorned in Second Amendment accessories, converge on big-city polling places on Election Day. They have come, they say, to investigate reports on social media of voter fraud. Counterprotesters arrive, fistfights break out, shots are fired, and voters flee or cannot reach the polls.
Then suppose the president declares an emergency. Federal personnel in battle dress, staged nearby in advance, move in to restore law and order and secure the balloting. Amid ongoing clashes, they stay to monitor the canvass. They close the streets that lead to the polls. They take custody of uncounted ballots in order to preserve evidence of fraud.
Could it happen? Not easily, and not likely, but it is not impossible either.
If Trump cared at all about conforming to law, he would need a reason under the Insurrection Act of 1807 for the use of troops in domestic law enforcement. In early June, Trump threatened to invoke that authority to quell disorder during widespread protests in American cities over the death of George Floyd. That kind of deployment has precedent—most recently in 1992, to suppress rioting in Los Angeles after white police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, a Black motorist, and in the 1950s and ’60s, when it was used to enforce desegregation orders in the South. Trump, in theory, could seize upon any violence around polling places—even violence touched off by his own supporters—to justify the deployment. He might even cast his intervention as a bid to protect voters’ civil rights.
Those justifications would be slender reeds, and they would run into a major legal obstacle. Trump’s power as commander in chief is exclusive, but not unbounded: It is subject to statutory limits. And federal law forbids, under criminal penalty, the presence of “any troops or armed men at any place where a general or special election is held.”
There is, however, an exception: Troops are permitted if “necessary to repel armed enemies of the United States.” An aggressive interpretation of that phrase, according to Dakota Rudesill, a professor of national security law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, might describe “agents of antifa” in those terms. “That would be a stretch, but we’ve seen a lot of stretches” from Trump, Rudesill said. If troops took possession of ballots, “obviously what we’re talking about are profoundly severe, extreme, shocking developments that would be just massive norm violations and the sort of thing you see in authoritarian states like Russia that have the forms and processes but are not democracies anymore.”
But who could stop the president? Courts are often deferential to the executive branch in matters of national security, and it is unclear what remedy they could order even if they ruled the deployment illegal. There are no do-overs in a presidential election.
Most election-law experts I talked with expressed deep skepticism of this scenario.
“The kinds of things you’re talking about are the kinds of things that would lead to rioting in the streets,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law. “Now we’ve truly crossed into banana-republic territory.”
Maybe rioting is just what Trump would want in order to validate the deployment, I observed.
“You’re one of the few people I know who’s darker than I am,” Hasen replied.
One practical barrier, according to a lawyer advising the Biden team, is that “it would take a lot of troops in a lot of places to have an impact that clearly helps him.”
“A huge number of people have already voted,” the lawyer added. “How many troops do you have to send to how many places to affect a national election? And you’ve got to worry about whether you can actually get them to do what you want.”
That last point is the real constraint on Trump’s use of troops, the practical barrier he likely cannot surmount. It is hard to imagine the armed forces going along. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is not in the formal chain of command, but he spoke for the top uniformed leadership in a highly unusual written statement to the House Armed Services Committee, disclaiming any role for the U.S. military in the event of an election dispute.
Kori Schake: The military doesn’t want to get involved
Biden’s team has emergency legal papers prepared, but a senior adviser said flatly that “there is no way that he’s going to persuade the Pentagon to send troops.”
“Number one,” the adviser said, the senior brass “don’t want to, so let’s start with that. And number two, they make an independent evaluation about whether the action is legal. And there are at least two statutes that not only prohibit the troops from being deployed near polling places, but actually impose liability on the officers and arms-bearing soldiers.”
There is a caveat here, even so, the adviser acknowledged. It is also a serious crime, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to disobey a lawful order. Disobedience flies in the face of a lifetime’s training for a man or woman in uniform. Anyone who defies the commander in chief had better be sure.
Trump and his political advisers have good reason to assume that ballots sent by mail are likely to be Biden votes. Trump himself is the principal driver of that skew, because he has equated absentee voting with fraud, and many of his supporters believe him.
It might be in Trump’s interest, then, to interfere with the delivery of those ballots. Could he?
Experts considered one scenario that the Biden team has gamed out. John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, passes word that top-secret information suggests an effort by China to forge absentee ballots—a risk that Attorney General Bill Barr has publicly raised as a matter of “common sense.” The report reaches Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major campaign contributor to Trump. DeJoy instructs the chief of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to halt the delivery of ballots sent by mail.
Here even a temporary delay is strategically valuable to a sufficiently ruthless president. Twenty-eight states require that absentee ballots arrive by Election Day; the other 22 have deadlines within a few days. A ballot cannot be counted if it does not arrive on time, and the Supreme Court has been reluctant to permit a change of rules close to Election Day. “Running out the clock is a potential concern,” Pildes said.
S. David Fineman, a former chairman of the Postal Service’s board of governors, told me that postal inspectors could theoretically detain the mail for investigation purposes. “The Postal Service could take the position, ‘We’re not going to deliver any more mail to the county boards of election,’” he said.
Fineman said any move like this would be transparent and “outrageous.” He described it as “a little bit far-fetched,” if only for practical reasons. Since late last week, he pointed out, the Biden campaign and its allies have urged voters to stop using the mail, warning that ballots might not arrive on time. Tens of millions of ballots have already been delivered. If Trump were going to pull this move, he would probably have done it sooner. On the other hand, every vote counts in a closely contested state.
3. The Law-Enforcement Option
What “I do worry about,” the senior Biden adviser said, is an operation that combines federal law-enforcement forces under Barr’s command—as Barr arranged for the photo opportunity in Lafayette Square in June—including “some combination of DHS and the marshal service.”
In this scenario, federal authorities would purport to be investigating voter fraud and take steps to stop the counting. There is not much plausible authority to do that under federal law, but the law would not really be the point. If the FBI or U.S. Marshals showed up at a county election board with orders to seize the ballots, local officials would probably comply.
When I asked Lisa Manheim, a University of Washington law professor, about this scenario, she figuratively threw up her hands.
“Baked into your question is the idea that the president would somehow use legal means to then commit unlawful actions, so I understand why you’re asking it, but conceptually speaking, you’re not really asking a legal question,” she said. “You’re asking more just a question of power, when [legal pretexts] lend legitimacy to that exercise of power.”
“The law has a really hard time knowing what to do with pretext,” she added, “where a governmental actor is purporting to do something for one reason but in fact is doing it for another reason.”
Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and a former acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, was likewise somewhat flummoxed by the question. “I am not as sinister as the president, and so it’s really hard for me to think of ways to do something so out of line, so far out of norms,” he said. “How unrealistic do you want me to get?”
Rosenberg, echoing several other experts, said career assistant U.S. attorneys and FBI agents would rebel against such a plan. “It would require complicity at the executive-management level, and gullibility on the part of those following orders,” he said. “That’s hard for me to see.”
Justin Levitt, a Loyola Marymount University law professor and a former deputy assistant attorney general, said the trouble with the scenario is, “I don’t think that Bill Barr can carry that many ballots out of any given room, and I say that because I don’t think that career attorneys at DOJ would have any part in authorizing or signing off on or participating in an unlawful attempt to seize custody over ballots that were still in contention in the state.”
From the April 2020 issue: The president is winning his war on American institutions
“I fully believe that Trump and, unfortunately, Barr will seize every advantage they can because they have shown that they are willing to,” he said. “My firewall is that there’s very little that they can do themselves.” The equivalent of asking DOJ lawyers to seize ballots “based on completely visible pretext” is “asking the military to line up and shoot a crowd of peaceful civilians in the face.”
The Justice Department manual for prosecuting election crimes says that “in most cases,” documents relating to an election “should not be taken from the custody of local election administrators until the election to which they pertain has been certified and the time for contesting the election results has expired.” There is an exception for cases in which prosecutors allege “that local election administrators seek to retain or destroy the election records for a corrupt purpose or to further an ongoing election fraud scheme.”
In recent voting litigation, according to Edward B. Foley, a constitutional-law professor at Ohio State, the Trump administration is “taking the position that it’s a denial of voting rights to have fake ballots dilute real ballots,” which means “they have a legal theory for thinking that [state elections fall under] federal jurisdiction.”
“You can’t just say there’s no power of the federal government at all in these things,” he added. “You just have to hope it will not be abused … The idea of using DOJ power to try to thwart the popular vote is taking us into truly uncharted territories.”
Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel who is advising the Biden campaign, said the challenge for Trump would not be making an accusation of fraud, but backing it up. No court would allow the government to seize and hold ballots without evidence, he said, and “I don’t know how they could conjure it up and sustain that claim if it’s tested in any kind of adversarial process.”
The ultimate check on Trump’s power to meddle in the election is the same as it has been throughout his term in office: whether he can bend subordinates and institutions to his will. The record on that is mixed.
Bauer said a decisive loss in preliminary poll returns would greatly diminish the president’s power to push government agencies—or fellow Republican leaders—across normative lines.
“I am not sure when he looks behind him that he’s going to see the massive army that he thinks that he leads,” he said.
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday the U.S. presidential election’s result will not impact Tehran’s policy towards Washington.
“Our policy towards the United States is clearly set and does not change with the movement of individuals. It does not matter to us who comes and goes,” Khamenei said in a speech carried live on state TV.
Khamenei was speaking on the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which coincided with the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.
“The students’ attack on this den of spies was quite appropriate and wise,” Khamenei said, referring to radical Islamist students who stormed the embassy, taking hostage 52 staff for an eventual 444 days. There have been no U.S.-Iranian diplomatic relations since.
Iran this year cancelled rallies and other events marking the embassy seizure because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus which has killed about 36,000 people in the country, the worst hit in the Middle East.
The Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has pledged to rejoin Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers if Iran returns to compliance with it.
In 2018 President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, under which Iran international financial sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear programme. Iran followed Washington’s rejection by reducing its compliance.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told U.S. network CBS on Monday that he wants the United States to rejoin the accord, but that “re-engagement does not mean renegotiation” because “if we wanted to do that [renegotiate], we would have done it with President (Donald) Trump four years ago.”
Zarif told CBS that “the statements by the Biden camp have been more promising, but we will have to wait and see”.
Trump has said he wants to strike a broader accord that would also address Iran’s missile programme and regional activities. Iran has ruled out any negotiations unless Washington first returns to the agreement.
Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Peter Graff
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Bryan Norcross, Hurricane Specialist
Published: November 3, 2020, 5:51 pm
Hurricane Eta is on track to be a catastrophic event in Central America — especially Nicaragua and Honduras. The slow-moving storm is going to pummel the eastern part of Nicaragua with vicious Category 4 winds and dump 2 to 3 feet of rain on the mountainous sections of both countries.
Even after Eta’s circulation gets shredded by the mountains, heavy rain will continue to fall. There is risk that the death toll will be staggeringly high.
About Friday, what’s left of Eta is forecast to move north into the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba. The atmospheric conditions there are expected to be supportive of a tropical storm redeveloping.
Whether it will be called Eta or Theta, the next letter in the Greek alphabet, is an open question. There are technical rules about names being carried over once the circulation gets disrupted. The National Hurricane Center will make the call based on what they are able to track of Eta’s original center.
While the new system is developing over the Caribbean, a sharp dip in the jet stream is forecast to move into the Gulf. The consensus of the afternoon computer forecast models is that that dip will scoop up the disturbance, whatever shape it’s in, and lift it toward South Florida.
A satellite look at Hurricane Eta on Tuesday evening, Nov. 3.
The National Hurricane Center has responded to these more aggressive projections by the models by forecasting the system to move north fairly quickly – putting it in the vicinity of South Florida on Sunday. But uncertainty abounds.
The dip in the jet stream that is forecast to pull the system north, is not expected to create an environment conducive for significant strengthening. In fact, the forecast weather pattern over South Florida late in the weekend appears to be more supportive of a wintertime-type low-pressure system forming – like a nor’easter.
As a result of these factors and more, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting a modest tropical storm moving north from Cuba – with a lot of acknowledged uncertainty in their forecast.
Recall the maxim: Forecasts for slow-moving or developing storms are almost always poor. This situation has that in spades.
For now, be ready for significant rainfall over the weekend, and a potentially disruptive storm on Sunday or Monday. There are many possibilities for the track and intensity when the storm is near Florida, so all we can do right now is to stay informed and be ready as the forecast becomes clearer.
Advisory summary for Hurricane Eta
Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved.
An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet in the Negev desert, December 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
By Hamodia StaffMonday, November 2, 2020 at 3:55 pm | ט”ו חשון תשפ”א
Israeli fighter jets were scrambled after a small drone was detected apparently crossing the border from Gaza on Monday.
The craft was sighted crashing in the Eshkol region. IDF sources have not said how the drone was brought down.
“During additional searches of the ground in the area, a drone was located a short time ago. It is being checked if this is the drone that is suspected of having crossed into Israeli territory,” the military said.
November 2, 2020 2.07pm EST
November 2, 2020 2.07pm EST
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware this article contains the name of a deceased person.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons received its 50th ratification on October 24, and will therefore come into force in January 2021. A historic development, this new international law will ban the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately the nuclear powers — the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — haven’t signed on to the treaty. As such, they are not immediately obliged to help victims and remediate contaminated environments, but others party to the treaty do have these obligations. The shifting norms around this will hopefully put ongoing pressure on nuclear testing countries to open records and to cooperate with accountability measures.
For the people of the Pacific region, particularly those who bore the brunt of nuclear weapons testing during the 20th century, it will bring a new opportunity for their voices to be heard on the long-term costs of nuclear violence. The treaty is the first to enshrine enduring commitments to addressing their needs.
From 1946, around 315 nuclear tests were carried out in the Pacific by the US, Britain and France. These nations’ largest ever nuclear tests took place on colonised lands and oceans, from Australia to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati to French Polynesia.
The impacts of these tests are still being felt today.
All nuclear tests cause harm
Studies of nuclear test workers and exposed nearby communities around the world consistently show adverse health effects, especially increased risks of cancer.
The total number of global cancer deaths as a result of atmospheric nuclear test explosions has been estimated at between 2 million and 2.4 million, even though these studies used radiation risk estimates that are now dated and likely underestimated the risk.
The number of additional non-fatal cancer cases caused by test explosions is similar. As confirmed in a large recent study of nuclear industry workers in France, the UK and US, the numbers of radiation-related deaths due to other diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, is also likely to be similar.
The British conducted seven nuclear test explosions in Maralinga, South Australia. But there they also did over 600 ‘minor’ trials for bomb development, responsible for most of the ongoing contamination. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA/AAP
‘We all got crook’
Britain conducted 12 nuclear test explosions in Australia between 1952 and 1957, and hundreds of minor trials of radioactive and toxic materials for bomb development up to 1963. These caused untold health problems for local Aboriginal people who were at the highest risk of radiation. Many of them were not properly evacuated, and some were not informed at all.
We may never know the full impact of these explosions because in many cases, as the Royal Commission report on British Nuclear Tests in Australia found in 1985: “the resources allocated for Aboriginal welfare and safety were ludicrous, amounting to nothing more than a token gesture”. But we can listen to the survivors.
The late Yami Lester directly experienced the impacts of nuclear weapons. A Yankunytjatjara elder from South Australia, Yami was a child when the British tested at Emu Field in October 1953. He recalled the “Black Mist” after the bomb blast:
It wasn’t long after that a black smoke came through. A strange black smoke, it was shiny and oily. A few hours later we all got crook, every one of us. We were all vomiting; we had diarrhoea, skin rashes and sore eyes. I had really sore eyes. They were so sore I couldn’t open them for two or three weeks. Some of the older people, they died. They were too weak to survive all the sickness. The closest clinic was 400 miles away.
His daughter, Karina Lester, is an ambassador for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Australia, and continues to be driven by her family’s experience. She writes:
For decades now my family have campaigned and spoken up against the harms of nuclear weapons because of their firsthand experience of the British nuclear tests […] Many Aboriginal people suffered from the British nuclear tests that took place in the 1950s and 1960s and many are still suffering from the impacts today.
More than 16,000 Australian workers were also exposed. A key government-funded study belatedly followed these veterans over an 18-year period from 1982. Despite the difficulties of conducting a study decades later with incomplete data, it found they had 23% higher rates of cancer and 18% more deaths from cancers than the general population.
An additional health impact in Pacific island countries is the toxic disease “ciguatera”, caused by certain microscopic plankton at the base of the marine food chain, which thrive on damaged coral. Their toxins concentrate up the food chain, especially in fish, and cause illness and occasional deaths in people who eat them. In the Marshall Islands, Kiritimati and French Polynesia, outbreaks of the disease among locals have been associated with coral damage caused by nuclear test explosions and the extensive military and shipping infrastructure supporting them.
Pacific survivors of nuclear testing haven’t been focused solely on addressing their own considerable needs for justice and care; they’ve been powerful advocates that no one should suffer as they have ever again, and have worked tirelessly for the eradication of nuclear weapons. It’s no surprise independent Pacific island nations are strong supporters of the new treaty, accounting for ten of the first 50 ratifications.
Pacific island nations make up 10 of the first 50 countries to ratify the treaty. Laisa Nainoka/Youngsolwara, Author provided (No reuse)
Negligence and little accountability
Some nations that have undertaken nuclear tests have provided some care and compensation for their nuclear test workers; only the US has made some provisions for people exposed, though only for mainland US residents downwind of the Nevada Test Site. No testing nation has extended any such arrangement beyond its own shores to the colonised and minority peoples it put in harm’s way. Nor has any testing nation made fully publicly available its records of the history, conduct and effects of its nuclear tests on exposed populations and the environment.
These nations have also been negligent by quickly abandoning former test sites. There has been inadequate clean-up and little or none of the long-term environmental monitoring needed to detect radioactive leakage from underground test sites into groundwater, soil and air. One example among many is the Runit concrete dome in the Marshall Islands, which holds nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. It’s increasingly inundated by rising sea levels, and is leaking radioactive material.
Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is leaking nuclear waste from US testing in the 1940s and 50s. US Defense Special Weapons Agency/Wikimedia Commons
The treaty provides a light in a dark time. It contains the only internationally agreed framework for all nations to verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons.
It’s our fervent hope the treaty will mark the increasingly urgent beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. It is our determined expectation that our country will step up. Australia has not yet ratified the treaty, but the bitter legacy of nuclear testing across our country and region should spur us to join this new global effort.
Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham
November 2, 2020
North Korea, China, Pakistan, Iran map via Wikimedia Commons
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,795, November 2, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The vast, uninterrupted territory that contains North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Iran has greater geostrategic importance today than ever before. Of the two outermost countries of that territory, an anonymous senior US administration official recently said that “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation in the framework of a project on long-range missiles that includes the transfer of core components.”
On September 8, 2020, a meeting took place between Chairman of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Parliament Mojtaba Zolnouri and North Korean Ambassador to Iran Han Sung-joo. The meeting was held to discuss the launch of financial and barter networks between the two countries. US Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams responded by saying, “We are very concerned about Iran‘s cooperation with North Korea. …We will be watching the cooperation with North Korea very carefully and doing what we can to prevent it.”
A senior US administration official who preferred to remain anonymous recently said that “Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation in the framework of a project on long-range missiles that includes the transfer of core components,” a venture that is subject to interpretation. A “transfer of core components” might well extend beyond items related to solely conventional warhead-carrying missiles. No matter what it will in fact entail, the transfer will likely be insufficiently monitored due to the parties’ ability to make untraceable transfers on land across their contiguous territories. Aerial non-commercial transportation flights along the same uninterrupted corridor are also not easily monitored.
The other two countries in the contiguous nexus, China and Pakistan, are not likely to interfere. On the contrary: they are essential parts of the complex.
The Pyongyang regime is an unpredictable and often indecipherable tyranny, and a proliferator of WMDs plus ballistic knowhow and components. It is a threatening element for these reasons:
• It managed to avoid any agreement with the US regarding its development of ballistic and nuclear capabilities
• It possesses nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon arsenals
• It might be actively assisting the Iranian nuclear weapons program
• There is a concealed terrestrial interface between North Korea and Pakistan via China. Intelligence satellites have detected that the Karakoram Highway has been used to supply illicit nuclear material and dual-use items for missiles
• North Korea has been increasingly close to China since 2018, especially after Xi Jinping met with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang in June 2019
• In August 2019, Director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA Kim Su Gil visited Beijing to meet with Zhang Youxia, the second-ranked vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. Zhang told Kim that the delegation’s visit was of “crucial significance in bilateral exchange.“
North Korea shares a 1,416 km land border with China.
A new long-range missile was recently displayed by North Korea during its 75th anniversary military parade. This missile, together with its heavily modified truck, appear to represent a quantum leap (beyond the Hwasong-15 ballistic missile) in Pyongyang’s capacities, in reference to its missiles, launchers, and warheads, both conventional and unconventional. It is unlikely that North Korea attained these upgraded capacities without assistance.
• It possesses nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon arsenals. Its biological weapons arsenal is the most advanced in the world
• It strives to match and eventually surpass the West, both scientifically and technologically
• It is a “great pretender” that is inclined to overshadow competitors, including friendly competitors, in all fields
• Globally, it seeks to attain a geostrategic position through which it can exercise definitive, if largely unseen, influence upon international bodies. One example is its current interface with the WHO
• It has boundless ambition: it is pursuing hegemony in Asia (and beyond) through economic and military predominance. Two outcomes are the remarkable support lent by China to North Korea and Iran (essentially against the US) and to Pakistan (essentially against India)
China shares a 592 km land border with Pakistan.
• In possession of nuclear, biological and chemical weapon arsenals
• Reportedly collaborating with and being assisted by China in the development and field testing of biological warfare agents
China is an important source of Pakistan’s missile technology.
Islamabad’s tight military cooperation with Beijing consists mainly of purchasing attack submarines and developing fighter jets, with the addition of other faculties under so-called “scientific” frameworks. Military-to-military cooperation between the countries has strengthened in recent years, with Pakistani military personnel being trained in Chinese military institutions. The two countries often conduct joint military exercises.
Pakistan has a 959 km land border with Iran, a link that remains useful despite the fact that existing Pakistani interfaces are complex and in some cases substandard. The Pakistani-Iranian border represents the final western terrestrial passage to and from Iran along the uninterrupted quadruple territory under discussion (irrespective of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and the overland Silk Road Economic Belt project).
The German report
In June 2020, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution for the German state of Baden-Württemberg issued a report for the year 2019 that provided an explication of the illicit North Korea-Pakistan-China relationship. With reference to the nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs of North Korea and Pakistan, the report says:
They aim to complete existing arsenals, perfect the range, deployability and effectiveness of their weapons and develop new weapons systems. They are trying to obtain the necessary products and relevant knowhow through illegal procurement efforts in Germany. In order to circumvent existing export restrictions and embargoes, risk states must constantly develop and optimize their procurement methods. To conceal the actual end user, they can procure goods in Germany and Europe with the help of specially established cover companies and, in particular, transport dual-use goods to risk states. Typical bypass countries include Turkey and China.
Additionally, of course, single-use “goods” related to WMDs are clandestinely transported internally along the North Korea-China-Pakistan axis.
Iran can certainly be added to the extensively Chinese-supported duo of North Korea and Pakistan, with one key difference: Iran is the only one of the four to still be without nuclear weapons, though it is in active pursuit of them. On October 16, the Iranian opposition group The National Council of Resistance of Iran pointed out a secret facility in Sorkheh Hessar, east of Tehran, for producing nuclear weapons. Iran possesses biological and chemical weapons arsenals, is upgrading its ballistic capabilities, fosters relations with North Korea and China, and keeps its land border with Pakistan safe and exploitable for transportation. Moreover, to the west, Iran is endeavoring to construct a sound terrestrial bridge to Syria (and Lebanon) through Iraq, which would significantly lengthen the transportive axis of the uninterrupted quadruple territory.
Finally, on the military level, Iran and China recently tentatively agreed to extend their joint research and development of weapons, intelligence sharing, and joint training plus exercises. This is in parallel to their intention to form a broad and long-term logistical and economic cooperation. China stands to attain a great many footholds in Iran.
The Islamic regime in Iran has always been a radically oriented disguised tyranny, the deeds of which were often marked by elegance and sophistication. The disguise has at last begun to disintegrate, even in the eyes of inexplicably sympathetic European countries. Iran’s bonding with China could prove disastrous, particularly within the context of the uninterrupted quadruple territory.
The geostrategic importance of the belt comprising the four contiguous countries is increasing. This meaningful trend is basically independent of the new overland Silk Road and maritime Silk Road. The quadruple belt should be monitored closely to avoid the coalescing of the four countries into a formidable block.
While the territory comprising North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Iran might form a cardinal unified factor within the geostrategic system of the eastern hemisphere (and beyond), the interactions of China and Iran with Israel are meaningful in the region. Two remarkable examples—if not directly connected to the above—are the recent Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s drinking water, which aimed to destabilize the chlorine level and poison the country’s citizens; and the approaching operational management of the port of Haifa’s New Bay Terminal—not far from Haifa Naval Base, which houses Israeli submarines, missile boats and other vessels—by the Shanghai government-owned SIPG, from 2021 to 2046.
If China finds that it needs to prioritize between Iran and Israel—an entirely conceivable scenario—it will favor Iran, no matter what the context.
Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, a microbiologist and an expert on chemical and biological warfare in the Middle East, is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is a former senior intelligence analyst in the IDF and the Israeli Defense Ministry.