Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
Associated PressNovember 21, 2020
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — The Indian army says one soldier was killed and another wounded by Pakistani shelling along the highly militarized frontier dividing Kashmir between the two rivals. An Indian army spokesperson accused Pakistani troops of firing mortar rounds and other weapons Saturday along the Line of Control in southern Rajouri district. He called the incident an unprovoked violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord and said that Indian troops retaliated. Pakistan did not comment immediately. The reported attack comes a week after nine civilians and six soldiers were killed as Indian and Pakistani soldiers exchanged artillery fire along the de facto border.
Posted: Nov 21, 2020 / 02:52 PM CST / Updated: Nov 21, 2020 / 03:26 PM CST
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket toward Israel on Saturday night, setting off air-raid sirens in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, the Israeli military announced.
Israeli police said the rocket caused damage to a structure in the Ashkelon area, roughly 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Gaza, but there were no injuries. No other details were provided.
The launch raised the likelihood of an Israeli reprisal in Gaza.
Israel holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for all rocket fire out of the territory and usually strikes Hamas targets in response.
Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, are bitter enemies that have fought three wars and numerous skirmishes since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.
U.S. troops’ presence in Iraq is not making relations with Iran any better. It’s actually spurring Iran to more violence, showing its time to withdraw.
After the Trump administration’s consideration of military strikes on Iran for its nuclear program, the rocket attacks in Iraq’s Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy is located, on Tuesday have the potential to draw the United States closer to a conflict with Iran. But President Trump should keep military retaliation off the table. Military action has incentivized — not deterred — Iran and its proxies in the past, endangering U.S. personnel.
Military force hasn’t made American personnel safe. In the last bout of hostilities with Iran, Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-aligned militia group in Iraq, conducted a rocket attack in December 2019 which killed a U.S. contractor. In response, the U.S. hit Kata’ib Hezbollah hard, striking five of the group’s facilities. If military action could deter further attacks, that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t.
Escalating tit-for-tat attacks
Instead, a cycle of escalation ensued, with Kata’ib Hezbollah supporters attacking the U.S. embassy that same month. The U.S. then pursued the most aggressive option on the table, killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January. Rather than prevent further attacks, the move prompted Iran’s direct retaliation, with Iran’s ballistic missile attack injuring over 100 U.S. personnel.
What happened in the aftermath of this standoff also underscores the failure of a military response to solve the problem. Attacks continued throughout the year, only stopping in October when Kata’ib Hezbollah pledged to stop attacks if the U.S. withdrew. Tuesday’s rocket attacks came after Pentagon officials said they would withdraw only 500 of the 3000 troops in Iraq.
What can be learned from this and what is the solution?
Neither the American strikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah nor the strike against Soleimani ended the attacks on U.S. personnel. Both ultimately escalated the situation and made an Iran-U.S. war more likely. The longer U.S. forces stay in Iraq, the longer they are in harm’s way. And as was seen in the previous tit-for-tat last December, a single American death acts as a flash-point that risks a war.
There is still good news:Middle East peace accord, economic recovery and space travel
Thankfully, Tuesday’s attack produced no U.S. casualties. That warrants a sigh of relief but not celebration. U.S. personnel are still needlessly endangered for a mission that is largely accomplished. With ISIS’s territorial control gone and its leadership decapitated, the U.S. has little to benefit from staying in Iraq and a lot to lose. The role of preventing an ISIS resurgence should now fall to the Iraqi Security Forces, a role the U.S. military already envisions as the end goal.
Iraqis are the best counterweight to Iran
Military action proved counterproductive against both Kata’ib Hezbollah and Iran, so the solution is a full military withdrawal. This is not an abandonment of the region, but a shift from a militaristic role to one based on diplomacy. The U.S. can and should still engage Iraq in areas of overlapping interest and to share intelligence for counterterrorism purposes.
The inevitable criticism of this move is that Iran would fill the U.S. gap. But the militarized U.S. presence actually drives Iraqis closer to Iran. In the aftermath of the Soleimani killing, Iraqi lawmakers symbolically voted to oust U.S. forces while populist Muqtada al-Sadr led hundreds of thousands in an anti-American rally. This is the same Muqtada al-Sadr who analysts predicted would be a strong anti-Iran influence in Iraq. Withdrawing would redirect this nationalist sentiment against Iran. The natural counterweight to Iran in Iraq is not the U.S. It’s Iraqis.
Middle East:ISIS is using the COVID distraction to rearm and regroup
The U.S. has not established deterrence with Iran. U.S. military presence in Iraq risks harm to personnel which in turn can bring the U.S. into a war with Iran. The costs are high and the benefits are nonexistent with the defeat of ISIS. The Iraqis are the ones best suited to preventing ISIS from reemerging and opposing a vassalization of their country by Iran. Therefore, it behooves both Trump and Biden to declare that that end has finally come.
Geoff LaMear is a fellow at Defense Priorities and a Marcellus Policy Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society where he researches Iranian proxies.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Israel for a trip that is expected to include a tour of a West Bank winery, the first time a top US diplomat has visited an Israeli settlement. OPED By Haider Abbas
EurAsian Times DeskNovember 19, 2020
The entire world is gripped by the fear of war. And as it seemed earlier, it may not be the India-China theater, but the Iran-the Middle-East conflict, which has all the potential to turn into a ‘third world war’.
Trump supporters have started to march to Washington to protest the allegations of ‘fraud’ in the elections raised by Trump, and Biden has expressed his grave concerns, for the first time, that ‘more people may die’ if Trump refuses to cooperate on the transition of power.
But amid all the chaos, it has come to light that Trump is mulling an attack on Iran, as BBC reported on November 17, and has called all his advisors to explore the options of a strike on the nuclear sites of Iran, against which Tehran has vowed a ‘crushing’ response.
Trump who is credited for not having started any fresh war, in contrast to the war-mongering image of Biden, had long been pressured by the Jewish state of Israel to start a war on Iran, in the apprehension of the Iranian nuclear program, in all these last four years.
And now, desperate to please Israel, Trump is standing on a very critical moment as a war at this juncture has every possibility to engulf the whole world.
Iran is accused of conducting a nuclear enrichment program, something the US is greatly concerned about. After all, in the wake of the hoax of weapons of mass destruction claim, Iraq was attacked by the US under the George W Bush administration as the world stood witness to millions of deaths in Iraq, followed by Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc.
It is worth recalling that Trump in May 2018 had scrapped the US-Iran nuclear deal, which Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu boasted of having got it done himself, according to a Times of Israel report on July 17, 2018.
He may have succumbed to the persuasion from Israel, but in his desperation right now, he may trigger a war with Iran in his next 65 days i.e. until he retains the same powers, or else Biden would pick from where Trump would leave.
Thus, a war on Iran, to the tunes of Israel, whether it be from Trump or Biden, is, therefore, likely to take place. As it turns out, Biden had always been a self-professed Zionist, as disclosed by Scoop.co.nz on March 17, 2020.
Trump has been overtly pro-Israel as he played an instrumental role in getting the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan to formalize their relations with Israel apart from giving status to ‘Jerusalem’ to be the capital of Israel.
He complied with the annexation plan of the West Bank by Israel, and it was also quite conclusive that Trump if re-elected, will supervise it to happen.
But, Trump to the liking of Israel fell dramatically short of war. Trump is, therefore, now searching for moves to placate Israel and has already deployed his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his highest-ranking official, who recently declared that the second term of Trump is coming, to visit the ‘Israeli illegal settlements’ in West Bank.
Pompeo’s visit is to provide a legitimate cover and also fast-track the ‘annexation plan’ of Israel, although the US State Department has not confirmed Pompeo’s itinerary as yet.
Iran, as part of its defense mechanism, is also moving to safeguard its boundaries, and therefore, its foreign minister Javed Zarif paid a visit to Pakistan on November 10, 2020, to coordinate a response from Pakistan. Since it’s speculated the US may try to seek to use Pakistan’s Shamsi airbase to bombard Iran, or obviously, from its biggest military base in Al Udeid in Qatar.
And, no wonder, the chief of Qatar air force, therefore, also paid a visit to Pakistan on November 17, 2020, to help clear the air that Qatar too would not oblige the US in its likely decision of attacking Iran. Iran would then also target the US base in Qatar, and Qatar is now firmly with Turkey, which is now in a new bloc with Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia, supported by Russia and China.
Also, in one of the biggest deals in history, China and Iran have entered into a 25-year $400-billion ‘military and trade’ agreement, which has sent everything spinning in Middle-East as well as in Israel, the US, and India.
India, ironically, has been made to move out from Iran’s Chabahar project. Visits by defense minister Rajnath Singh (September 5, 2020) and external affairs minister S Jaishankar (September 9, 2020), had failed to make any difference.
If Trump is to give a go-ahead against Iran, it will most certainly have a fallout on Pakistan and China, who are at daggers drawn with India over India’s PM Narendra Modi’s annulment of Article 370, on August 5, 2019, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
And it hasn’t been long since Pakistan distanced itself from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one year later, after allegations that KSA did not stand with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. And therefore, King Salman’s response after the visit of Javed Zarif, at the behest of the US, was quite predictive as he sought a decisive stance against Iran, corroborated by Al Jazeera on November 12, 2020.
There might be a stealth fighter attack, or a missile attack from Iraq, or even a cyber-attack, as Iran had experienced mystery fires in July last when seven of its ships had caught fire. Although whatever is the outcome, it will be to Israel’s advantage, and India is very firmly with Israel, which ironically has been accorded as a ‘black sheep’ by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the ‘BRICS family’ on November 17, 2020, according to Hindustan Times.
India has bid adieu to Russia by signing BECA with the US, despite around 70 percent of India’s military wherewithal having a stamp of Russia.
But, despite all, if the US goes on to attack Iran, China alongside Pakistan, due to CPEC, would also be there to the defense of Iran. Perhaps, if all this happens, then surely it would be an advantage for India, even when Biden takes over in January 2021.
The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.
Military aide to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan.
A defense adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran warned that any US attack on the Islamic Republic could set off a “full-fledged war” in the region.
“We don’t welcome a crisis. We don’t welcome war. We are not after starting a war,” Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, the military adviser of Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
He, however, warned against any US military escalation in final weeks of US President Donald Trump in office.
“A limited, tactical conflict can turn into a full-fledged war,” he said. “Definitely, the United States, the region and the world cannot stand such a comprehensive crisis.”
The remarks came in reaction to a recent report in which the New York Times, citing four current and former US officials on Monday, said that Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks.
A range of senior advisers dissuaded Trump from moving ahead with a military strike, said The New York Times, adding that the advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Trump’s presidency.
Further, Dehqan reiterated the country’s principled stance that its missile power is non-negotiable due to its forming part of Iran’s “deterrent” might.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not negotiate its defensive power … with anybody under any circumstances,” he added. “Missiles are a symbol of the massive potential that is in our experts, young people and industrial centers.”
The official also described as ‘strategic mistake’, the Zionist entity’s regional expansionist ambitions that saw the regime normalizing its relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan earlier in the year.
“It is opening an extensive front,” he said. “Just imagine every Israeli in any military base can be a target for groups who are opposed to Israel.”
Source: Iranian media
The International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog confirmed that the Kangson nuclear site near the capital Pyongyang is currently active.
The Kangson nuclear facility includes a large enrichment hall which is never covered by snow, satellite images revealCredit: Credit: Pen News
Despot Kim Jong-un inspects a prototype nuclear warhead at a different facility in 2017Credit: Credit: Pen News
Kim Jong-un has refused to acknowledge the existence of the secret facility – which prompted the collapse of peace talks with Donald Trump last year.
Intelligence agencies have been studying it since 2007 and believe it may have been enriching weapons-grade uranium since 2003.
Now the IAEA has detected fresh activity there, suggesting the regime is stockpiling yet more warheads despite promising to stop.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA, said: “We are trying to finetune the analysis on Kangson.
“In the beginning we were a bit more prudent, but with further analysis we can see that this is a relevant place where activity is taking place.”
He added inspectors will seek to visit the site when they are able to return to North Korea.
At the heart of the Kangson facility is a hall measuring 50 metres by 110 metres, which is believed to house the centrifuge cascades producing highly enriched uranium.
Snow never gathers on its roof, even when nearby rooftops are covered, suggesting that it generates heat all year round, satellite photos showed.
The Kangson enrichment plant is close to a motorway, which is crucial for supplying material and disposing of wasteCredit: Credit: Pen News
Satellite images show how the site has been built up since the early 2000sCredit: Credit: Pen News
Kangson is close to the capital PyongyangCredit: Credit: Pen News
It is only a kilometre from a major expressway – a lifeline for a plant that generates a lot of waste and needs regular resupply – and it’s under four kilometres from Chamjin Missile Factory.
It’s even surrounded by a one-kilometre long perimeter wall – suggesting a high-security area.
A number of support buildings at the site are thought to be home to scientists, engineers and other staff.
Revealingly, it’s the only large facility in the area that Kim Jong-un and his father Kim Jong-il, have never been shown visiting in North Korean propaganda.
IAEA boss Mr Grossi confirmed up-to-date satellite images are helping them keep track of the site until North Korea allows inspectors back in.
He said: “For me this is important because, when we return to the DPRK – and I hope this will indeed be the case – we will have in front of us a much wider set of facilities and places to visit.
“So it’s good that we start to get a feel of what could be taking place in different parts of the country.”
SCUPPERED PEACE TALKS
The existence of the Kangson plant was revealed to the world by US-based magazine The Diplomat in 2018.
A US intelligence source told magazine that Kangson’s capacity could be twice that of Yongbyon, which the Kim regime claims is its biggest enrichment facility.
Another US government source estimated in 2017 that, between the two sites, North Korea had enough fissile material for 12 new nuclear weapons a year.
The revelations about Kangson scuppered peace talks after Kim’s first summit with Trump in Singapore was hailed a historic success.
At a follow-up summit in Hanoi in January 2019, Kim offered to shut Yongbyon in return for the easing of UN sanctions.
But Trump demanded he also shut Kangson and three other sites, and when Kim refused he walked out saying North Korea was not ready for a deal.