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)
November 13, 2020, 07:19 AM
‘Israel follows Begin Doctrine… it will not accept hostile state having world’s most destructive weapon’
H R McMaster, US President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, warned Wednesday night that Israel could attack Iran if it detected a threat emanating from it – even in the final days of the Republican’s administration.
Speaking to Fox News channel “Special Report,” McMaster maintained that Israel follows the Begin Doctrine “which means that they will not accept a hostile state having the most destructive weapons on Earth,” as cited in The Jewish Voice.
The doctrine is named for former Prime Minister Menachem Begin who gave the green light in 1981, for Israel’s stunning attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.
McMaster also referenced Israel’s 2007 strikes on a nuclear weapons facility in Syria, that President Bashar al-Assad was building in the desert with the help of the North Koreans.
The former national security adviser told host Bret Baier that the current situation was akin to that of 2006, when it was known that “Iran was pushing their threshold nuclear weapons capability,” and where tensions were higher and Israel – under the premiership of Ehud Olmert – “was about to act at that point.”
Likewise, he cautioned against a precipitous return – if as expected presumptive President-elect Joe Biden is, in fact, inaugurated on January 20 – to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), from which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew in 2017.
McMaster labeled the desire to return to the deal a “mistake,” declaring the Iran nuclear deal a “political disaster masquerading as a diplomatic triumph.”
He added that the only thing the deal achieved was to embolden Iran, put hard currency into the hands of the mullahs, all the while relieving sanctions. He accused Tehran of using the funds, not to support a struggling populace or economy but by enhancing its efforts to put a proxy army on Israel’s border.
By Simon Watkins – Nov 12, 2020, 6:00 PM CST
With the announcement last week that the president of Russian state oil proxy Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, met one-to-one with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and its Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail, to discuss further co-operation, it appears that Iraq’s long-standing game of playing the U.S. and Russia off against each other in return for economy-sustaining financing may finally be drawing to a close. “Russia wants a firm commitment and it’s tired of waiting,” a senior oil and gas industry source who works closely with Iraq’s Oil Ministry told OilPrice.com last week. Iraq’s game with the U.S. ever since the superpower toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 has been to pretend that it would co-operate fully with the Washington’s plan to use Iraq not just for oil supplies but also as a base from which to further consolidate its power in the Middle East, as it was back then. Iraq, with a very conservatively-estimated 144 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves (nearly 18 per cent of the Middle East’s total, and around 9 per cent of the world’s) would provide oil for decades for the U.S., and was intended to dovetail into the oil relationship that the U.S. has maintained since 1945 with Saudi Arabia (even allowing the U.S. to reduce its dependence on this Saudi relationship over time), and would act as a huge geopolitical check against Iraq’s neighbour, Iran. Further buoyed by Iraq’s promises of lucrative oil and gas projects for U.S. companies – and the perennially on/off involvement of U.S. corporate heavyweight ExxonMobil in the flagship ‘Common Seawater Supply Project’ (CSSP) – Washington poured in hundreds of billions of dollars of aid and investment into Iraq since 2003, with little or no accountability for Baghdad.
In recent months, though, the patience of the U.S. has worn wafer thin. In April, it was announced that the U.S. had granted the shortest-ever waiver for Iraq to continue to import gas and electricity from Iran, with which Iraq has continued to enjoy an extremely close relationship, financially, politically, and militarily. At the same press conference that Morgan Ortagus, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, announced the new short waiver, she also pointedly announced new sanctions against 20 Iran- and Iraq-based entities that were cited as funnelling money to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force and smuggling Iranian petroleum through Iraqi ports.
All of this was going on at the same time as Iraq was doing little to prevent an increase in attacks against U.S. assets across the country that began in January when Iranian surface-to-surface missiles hit two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. At that point, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he would impose sanctions directly on Iraq if the U.S. military was forced out of the country by further such incidents but, on March 30, 107-mm Russian-made Katyusha rockets were fired at the U.S. allied Camp Taji military base north of Baghdad, killing three service members. So far this year, there have in fact been at least 15 further significant attacks on U.S. military and neo-military personnel (and those of its allies) in Iraq by Iran proxies, according to U.S. military sources. Having seen both an extension followed by another reduction in the lengths of waivers granted for Iranian imports of gas and electricity since then, Iraq just last week announced another initiative designed to placate the U.S. in the shape of a preliminary agreement with Egypt to establish an oil-for-reconstruction mechanism. This agreement comprises 15 separate memoranda of understanding covering transport, water resources, health, the environment, justice, investment, housing, construction, industry, trade, finance, oil and gas, chemicals, and minerals that Egypt would back in return for oil supplies from Iraq. In broader terms, it can be seen as tying into the wider rapprochement that the U.S. has been seeking to build across the central Middle East, beginning with the U.S.-brokered Israel-UAE (and then Israel-Bahrain) normalisation of relations. After the conclusion of these deals, the U.S. had considerable room for optimism that further such deals could be made with the other GCC states, comprising Kuwait (already firmly in the U.S. sphere of influence), Saudi Arabia (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have been in favour of the UAE-Israel accord), Oman (toying with moving into the China fold), and Qatar (quietly co-operating with Iran over the South Pars/North Dome gas field). The remaining GCC states – Jordan and Egypt itself – already have similar pacts with Israel.
At the same time as all of this was going on, though, Russia was pressing Iraq for definitive progress on the series of deals that had been agreed between the two countries in 2017. Just prior to this year’s spate of attacks against U.S. military sites in southern Iraq, Russia had made it clear to Iraq (and before that to Iran) that a number of its companies were ready to move on at least US$20 billion of oil and gas projects in Iraq in the near term, including Zarubezhneft, Tatneft, and Rosneft-related oil and gas entities. These companies and others had seen their already-agreed projects stalled by the effective seizure of power by the now de facto leader of Iraq, radical cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, and his ultra-nationalist ‘Sairoon’ power bloc in the May 2018 Iraq elections and they remained slow-tracked as anti-American feeling in southern Iraq gathered momentum thereafter, particularly in the aftermath of the 2019 assassination by the U.S. of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani.
Related: EIA Sees WTI Crude Averaging $44 In 2021
Nonetheless, March 2018 had seen Russian state-owned energy firm Zarubezhneft (and private Iranian company, Dana Energy) sign a US$742 million deal to boost production at the Aban and Paydar oil fields in Iraq’s Ilam province near the border with Iran. At around the same time, preliminary deals had been agreed in Iran for Tatneft to develop Dehloran, for Lukoil to expand its oil operations into Ab Teymour and Mansouri, and for GazpromNeft to do the same in Changouleh and Cheshmeh-Khosh. In the latter two cases, both companies already had functioning operations in southern Iraq, with Lukoil active in the 14 billion barrel West Qurna 2 oil field, and Gazprom subsidiary GazpromNeft active in the 3 billion barrel Badra oil field (the Iran side of the shared field is Changouleh). Rosneft subsidiary Bashneft is also operational in southern Iraq’s Block 12.
In addition, Russia has again made it clear that it is extremely interested in taking over the development contract of Iraq’s Mansuriya gas field following the recent termination of the contract with a consortium led by Turkey’s state-owned TPAO. This will form one part of a skewed triangle of fields across southern Iraq, stretching from Mansuriya near the eastern border with Iran, down to Siba in the south (extremely close to the key Iraqi Basra export hub), and then all the way west across to Akkas (extremely close to the border with Syria). The 2019 contract between Russia’s Stroytransgaz and Iraq’s Oil Ministry to develop the hitherto virtually unknown Block 17 in Iraq’s lawless wasteland of Anbar province is a key part of this infrastructure plan.
Right now, then, Russia is pushing Iraq on allowing it to get on with what was agreed in 2017, with the focus being initially on upping Lukoil’s crude oil production from the supergiant West Qurna 2 oil field. For Russia, this would be taken as a reasonable sign of commitment from Iraq that its broader plan to take control of the south of the country – just as it effectively has the Kurdistan region in the north – can proceed, provided that Moscow makes short-term money available to Baghdad. This will not be a problem for Russia – or Lukoil – as back in November 2017 Iraq’s Oil Ministry agreed to extend the timeframe of the West Qurna 2 contract to 25-30 years (effectively reducing the daily cost of capital per barrel of oil recovered) and allowed Lukoil the option of increasing its stake from the present 75 per cent to 80 per cent, according to the Iraq source. “In return, Lukoil agreed to invest an extra US$1.4 billion in the short-term and a further US$3.6 billion down the line, depending on variables including OPEC quotas, Iran export levels, and the continued development of export capacity in the south,” he said.
In reality, then, the plan is for Lukoil not just to achieve the second phase production target of 480,000 bpd by 2020 – as was reiterated last week – but to outstrip it quickly, the Iraq source underlined. This, however, would also not be a problem for Lukoil as back in 2018 Iraq’s Oil Ministry found out that not only had the Russians hit 650,000 bpd production over various extended periods in the prior two months but also that it could sustain production of at least 635,000 bpd – it was just choosing not to do so because of the low per barrel remuneration rate at that time.
By Simon Watkins for Oilprice.com
Thu, Nov 12, 2020
IranSource by Mehran Haghirian
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, surrounded by Iranian cabinet members wearing protective masks as a means of protection against the cornonavirus COVID-19, during a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. Iran reported 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day toll since it announced the first deaths from the outbreak. The novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran is one of the deadliest outside of China and has so far killed 291 people and infected more than 8,000. Tehran, Iran on March 11, 2020. Photo by SalamPix/ABACAPRESS.COM
Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections may not only help revive US-Iran diplomacy, but could also boost the prospects of moderates and reformists in Iran following the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and the eventual passing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and subsequent re-imposition of sanctions have left Rouhani with his lowest approval rating since he first assumed office in 2013. It is conventional wisdom in Iran that the US “maximum pressure” campaign has significantly dimmed the fortunes of moderate and reformist factions in the upcoming June 2021 presidential elections in Iran.
However, the Biden administration can reverse this trend. From his inauguration on January 20, 2021, Biden will have seven months to reach some sort of agreement with the Rouhani administration prior to its departure from office.
Some in Washington DC and others abroad argue that Biden should not rush to make a deal with Rouhani or re-enter the JCPOA and should use the “leverage” provided by sanctions. However, delaying de-escalation with Iran would further complicate inevitable negotiations.
History has shown that the reduction of tensions between the US and Iran has occurred more often under reformist and pragmatist administrations such as Rouhani’s. Regardless of one’s opinion of Rouhani’s past actions or inactions, he is also the only moderate candidate with a chance to succeed Ayatollah Khamenei as Supreme Leader. Almost all the other prospects are hardline conservatives with deep-seated anti-American views.
Assuming that a Biden administration is not seeking to overturn the Iranian system, its best course of action is to reach an interim agreement with Rouhani that will roll back Iran’s recent nuclear steps and boost its economy with sanctions relief. Such an agreement would resurrect the reformist and moderate factions’ chances of winning the presidential elections, as well as Rouhani’s chances of becoming the next Supreme Leader.
Biden has declared that his administration “will make it a priority to set Iran policy right” and has vowed to reenter the JCPOA in exchange for Iran’s returning to compliance with its commitments under the agreement. Furthermore, Biden stated that he wants to “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy.”
Iran’s nuclear actions since the US withdrew from the JCPOA are reversible. While incoming US officials cannot negotiate with Iran prior to Biden’s inauguration, Europeans could approach Tehran during the transition period to speed up Iran’s return to technical compliance. This would allow both sides to claim compliance as confidence-building measures shortly after inauguration.
Many of Biden’s foreign policy team either worked in the Barack Obama administration during the nuclear negotiations or have similar views and are familiar with Iranian diplomats currently running the foreign ministry. This should facilitate new talks.
Beyond resuscitating the JCPOA, Biden should consider a broader agreement with Iran.
Although Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei have insisted that Iran will not renegotiate the JCPOA, Iranian leaders have always kept the door open for talks with the United States.
Iran has demanded that the US lift all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and compensate it for the economic losses of the past three years. However, this issue could be settled through closed-door negotiations, where other economic incentives are provided.
One can envision a sit-down between the new secretary of state and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif soon after Biden’s inauguration in the context of the JCPOA, perhaps at the Joint Commission that includes the remaining signatories to the deal: Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
Importantly, a universal prisoner exchange of Iranian nationals jailed in the United States for sanctions violations and Americans held in Iran, as offered by Zarif last year, could serve as a significant gesture of good will by both sides. Providing COVID-19 medical aid to Iran would also be a welcome signal of positive intent.
If there is to be a grander agreement that includes other issues aside from Iran’s nuclear program, Iran must also receive some relief from US primary sanctions. It is long overdue to discuss the reasons behind the imposition of these sanctions. Moreover, any future agreement must have bipartisan support in the United States and will need Congressional approval to secure its longevity.
If an interim agreement is reached before the June 2021 elections, the moderate faction will have something to show during the campaign, which will challenge the notion that a hardliner will automatically succeed Rouhani. Moreover, if he manages to reach an agreement with the US, Rouhani will undoubtedly garner the support of the majority of Iranians like he did after signing an interim agreement in 2013. This will allow him to position himself as the person who finally resolved the dispute with the United States after forty-two years.
Mehran Haghirian is a PhD candidate at Qatar University and a researcher and assistant director at the Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences. Follow him on Twitter: @MehranHaghirian.
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Just as the remnants of Eta finally blew out to sea on Friday, another storm formed that could follow its path of death and destruction into Central America this weekend, and Tropical Storm Theta was moving closer to Europe.
Hurricane experts were closely watching the Caribbean, where Tropical Storm Iota formed Friday afternoon. Forecasters warned that Iota could power up quickly, to near major hurricane strength, as it approaches Central America late Sunday or Monday, and wreak more havoc in a region where people are still grappling with the aftermath of Eta.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Iota could bring dangerous wind, storm surge and as much as 30 inches of rainfall to northern Nicaragua and Honduras. The storm was located about 335 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica and had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. There were no coastal warnings or watches in effect as of Friday afternoon.
Iota is a record-setting 30th named storm of this year’s extraordinarily busy Atlantic hurricane season. Such activity has focused attention on climate change, which scientists say is causing wetter, stronger and more destructive storms.
Forecasters said Eta’s remnants would pick up forward speed in the next day or so as it pulls away from the Southeast seaboard. Eta also triggered flash flooding, water rescues and at least one bridge collapse in South Carolina, said Sandy LaCorte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greenville, South Carolina.
Eta hit Nicaragua last week as a Category 4 hurricane, killing at least 120 people as torrential rains brought flash floods and landslides to parts of Central America and Mexico. Then it meandered across Cuba, the Florida Keys and around the Gulf of Mexico before slogging ashore again near Cedar Key, Florida, and dashing across Florida and the Carolinas.
The Tampa Bay area was buffeted with gusty winds and rain, and there was one U.S. death linked to Eta: In Bradenton Beach, Mark Mixon stepped into his flooded garage as he was laying sandbags around his home Wednesday evening and was electrocuted, said Jacob Saur, director of public safety for Manatee County.
Earlier, firefighters in Tampa had to rescue around a dozen people who got stuck in storm surge flooding on a boulevard adjacent to the bay. Some vehicles remained on the roadway Thursday. Isolated neighborhoods also experienced enough flooding to evacuate.
Several sailboats broke free from their moorings and washed ashore in Gulfport, Florida, including the vessel where Mo Taggart has lived for two years with her dog. She thinks the boat is a total loss.
“I mean, it was disaster,” Taggart said. “I mean, I came out here. My boat’s just up against the seawall, just smashing, smashing … I need to get another boat. I want to be back on the water, (my dog) wants to be back on the water.”
Eta was the 28th named storm of a busy Atlantic hurricane season, tying the 2005 record for named storms. Theta, the 29th, was centered Friday south-southeast of the Azores, and moving east with top sustained winds of 60 mph.
By Associated Press AP PUBLISHED 5:54 PM ET Nov. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED November 11, 2020 @5:54 PM
VIENNA (AP) — Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in a landmark nuclear deal with world powers and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted, the U.N.’s atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press that Iran as of Nov. 2 had a stockpile of 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 2,105.4 kilograms (4,641.6 pounds) reported on Aug. 25.
The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.
Iran has openly announced all violations of the nuclear deal in advance, which have followed the decision by the U.S. to pull out unilaterally in 2018.
The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for the curbs on its nuclear program. Since the U.S. withdrawal and imposition of new sanctions, Tehran has been putting pressure on the remaining parties with the violations to come up with new ways to offset the economy-crippling actions by Washington.
At the same time, the Iranian government has continued to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, a key reason the countries that remain parties to the JCPOA say it’s worth preserving.
The goal of the agreement is to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, something the country insists it does not intend to do.
A widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association suggests that Iran now has more than double the material it would need to make a nuclear weapon. However, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told The Associated Press in an interview last month that his agency does not share that assessment.
Before agreeing to the nuclear deal, Iran enriched its uranium up to 20% purity, which is a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%. In 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000 kilograms (7.72 tons) with higher enrichment, but it didn’t pursue a bomb.
In the quarterly report distributed to members on Wednesday, the IAEA said it still has questions from the discovery last year of particles of uranium of man-made origin at a site outside Tehran not declared by Iran.
The United States and Israel had been pressing the IAEA for some time to look into the Turquzabad facility, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the U.N. in 2018 as a “secret atomic warehouse.”
In the current report, the IAEA said the “compositions of these isotopically altered particles” found there were “similar to particles found in Iran in the past, originating from imported centrifuge components.” It said it found Iran’s response to questions last month “unsatisfactory.”
“Following an assessment of this new information, the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible,” the IAEA wrote this week. “A full and prompt explanation from Iran…is needed.”
IAEA Executive Director Rafael Grossi told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday that “evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran continue.”
He said in his first speech to the 193-member world body, which was virtual because of the pandemic, that he welcomed the agreement he reached with Iranian officials in Tehran in August “on implementation of some safeguards implementation issues,” including access to two sites.
Inspections have taken place and samples from the sites are being analyzed, he said.
Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told the assembly that “Iran and the agency have agreed to work in good faith to resolve these safeguards-related questions.”
Ravanchi also said it is “of utmost importance” for the IAEA to consider available information on the nuclear activities of Saudi Arabia, its regional rival.
“If Saudi Arabia is seeking a peaceful nuclear program, it should act in a very transparent manner and allow the agency’s inspectors to verify its activities,” he said.
He said the IAEA also needs to take “an unbiased and professional approach” toward Israel, which is not a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.
Associated Press writer Kiyoko Metzler reported this story in Vienna and AP writer David Rising reported from Berlin. AP writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of Israel’s elimination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Ata.
A day ahead of the one-year anniversary of Israel’s targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu Ata, Israel is preparing to counter a possible escalation in violence from the Gaza Strip. The IDF on Wednesday deployed additional Iron Dome batteries to southern Israel, and airline approach vectors have been altered.
Landing aircraft will approach Israel by a more northerly route, over the Sharon region, rather than over Tel Aviv. Departing flights will also take off in a direction farther to the north than planes usually do.
Last week, Israel Hayom reported that the one-year anniversary of Abu Ata’s death has been mentioned in the Gaza Strip for some time as a date for violence. Concerns about possible attacks from Gaza are also high in light of the COVID and economic crises that have pushed unemployment among Gaza residents to over 60%.
Unlike the first wave of COVID, which resulted in only a few dozen confirmed cases in Gaza, the second wave has brought thousands of cases. There are several dozen patients currently listed in serious condition in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority is not sending any money to Gaza, and Hamas has limited entry and exit to and from the area to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Moreover, Hamas is disappointed at the lack of progress on a long-term truce with Israel. Israel in conditioning progress in talks on a solution to its captive fallen soldiers and civilians, while the powers that be in Gaza are refusing to link the issues.