USGS Evidence Shows Power of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes
Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances
Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM USGS.govEarthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown.“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.This study also supports existing research showing that although earthquakes  are less frequent in the East, their damaging effects can extend over a much larger area as compared to the western United States.The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude.Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2from an earthquake of similar magnitude.“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening.Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.

The government approves of Iran becoming a full nuclear horn: Daniel 8

Iran’s parliament passes bill threatening to boost uranium enrichment and suspend inspectors

Iran’s parliament has passed a bill that would boost uranium enrichment to pre-2015 levels and block nuclear inspections if sanctions are not lifted, in the wake of the assassination of a top nuclear scientist.

Iran’s more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, whose government signed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, had opposed the bill, arguing that it would undermine diplomacy.

Iran’s government has repeatedly called on the US to restore the agreement which President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to return to the pact.

The “Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions” parliamentary bill demands that European parties to the deal lift sanctions on the country’s oil and banking sectors by February, threatening to suspend nuclear inspections by watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV.

The bill also allows for Iran to begin enriching uranium at 20%, well over the limits set in the nuclear deal, if economic sanctions are not lifted.

Iran’s parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the bill on Tuesday, according to Press TV, with 251 out of 260 lawmakers voting in favor of it. Iran’s Guardian Council then ratified the bill on Wednesday, according to the parliament’s mouthpiece, ICANA. The Guardian Council is a 12-member vetting body that reviews legislation adopted by the parliament.

At a televised cabinet meeting prior to its ratification, Rouhani warned that if the bill became law, it would be detrimental to the diplomatic process aimed at reviving the nuclear pact.

Pakistan sympathizes with the Iranian nuclear horn: Daniel 8

Pakistan Is Latest Nuclear Power to Condemn Killing of Iranian Scientist As World Remains on Edge

By Tom O’Connor On 12/3/20 at 7:44 PM EST

Pakistan is the latest nuclear power to condemn the killing of a top Iranian atomic scientist, deeming the act a destabilizing event in a region already plagued by widespread unrest.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a former Revolutionary Guard officer who led the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research was shot dead last Friday east of the Iranian capital in a yet unclaimed assassination that has fueled suspicions of Israeli involvement. While Iran has always denied possessing or seeking a nuclear bomb, several nations with such capabilities, such as Pakistan, have spoken out against the slaying.

“Pakistan condemns the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Thursday in a statement sent to Newsweek. “We extend sincere condolences to the family members of Mr. Fakhrizadeh and to the Iranian people.”

The attack comes about a decade after a series of similar slayings targeted other leading Iranian nuclear scientists and, more recently, in the wake of ongoing tensions between Iran and its top foes Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Islamabad worried such violence may only further entrench the Middle East in turmoil.

“Such acts not only run contrary to all norms of interstate relations and International Law but also threaten the peace and stability of an already fragile region,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said. “Pakistan strongly urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions in the region.”

Pakistan neighbors Iran and Pakistani officials have previously expressed to Newsweek the importance they place on stability along their country’s border with the fellow Islamic Republic.

Pakistan, one of nine countries believed to be in the nuclear weapons club, conducted its first public nuclear test in 1998, largely in response to a test conducted just two weeks earlier by rival India. Pakistan is believed today to hold around 160 nuclear weapons and India 150, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

While India—which has developed increasingly close ties to Israel and its top ally, the United States—has remained quiet, other world powers with nuclear stockpiles have spoken out.

Pakistani soldiers wearing facemasks patrol near the closed Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan on February 25. In addition to challenges posed by insurgents and drug traffickers in the region, the COVID-19 pandemic tightened security at crucial border crossings in the region. BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Days after Fakhrizadeh’s death, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday her country was appalled by the act and called on those responsible to be exposed.

“China is shocked by the killing of the Iranian scientist and condemns this violent crime,” Hua said. “We hope that the incident will be thoroughly investigated.”

Like Islamabad, Beijing worried about the potential ramifications in an already restive region.

“China opposes any act that aggravates regional tensions and undermines regional peace and stability,” Hua said. “As the current situation in the region is highly complex and sensitive, all parties should work together to ease regional tensions and maintain regional peace and stability.”

China is believed to possess up to about 320 nuclear weapons, having tested its first atomic weapon in 1961, just years after an ideological split with the Soviet Union led to tensions between the two communist powers.

Today, however, Beijing and Moscow are perhaps more aligned than ever. Both see the U.S. as a destabilizing force in the Middle East and support Iran economically despite Washington’s tight sanctions and, after the recent expiration of a U.N. arms embargo, perhaps soon militarily as well.

Russia, which currently holds the world’s largest nuclear arsenal with some 6,370 warheads at its disposal, had particularly harsh words for those behind the killing of Fakhrizadeh.

“We strongly condemn the murder of researcher Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27 in Iran,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. “We express serious concern over the provocative nature of this terrorist act clearly aimed to destabilize the situation and escalate conflict potential in the region. Whoever is behind the murder, whoever tried to use it to their political gain, must be held responsible.”

Fakhrizadeh’s killing came in what’s slated to be the final weeks of President Donald Trump’s administration, which despite officially disputing rival President-elect Joe Biden’s win, has formally begun the transition process set to complete January 20. During his tenure, Trump significantly escalated tensions with Iran by leaving a 2015 deal that granted the Islamic Republic sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear activities.

The deal was signed by Iran along with the U.S., China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear states of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as well as Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attend the Expo Center before the opening ceremony at the Expo Center at the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. Tehran opened up to the West the following year with the nuclear deal but now turns East to Moscow and Beijing for support under crushing U.S. sanctions. ALY SONG/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the U.S. unilateral exit in 2018, the rest of the parties continue to back the accord, even if Europe has struggled to maintain trade ties in the face of tough Trump administration sanctions and Iran has begun enriching uranium at higher levels in response.

After openly claiming the killing of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year, the U.S. has stayed silent on Fakhrizadeh’s demise and the State Department declined Newsweek’s request for comment on the matter.

Already breaking with the U.S. in backing the Iran nuclear deal, the European Union quickly denounced the killing of Fakhrizadeh, which the EU deemed illegal.

“This is a criminal act and runs counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for,” the EU’s External Action Service said in a statement Saturday, just a day after the act.

The statement expressed condolences on behalf of EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell, who also wished a recovery to those injured in an attack that exacerbated existing frictions across the Middle East.

“In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest,” the statement said.

The three European signatories to the nuclear deal also separately expressed concern.

The French Foreign Ministry said Monday it has “taken note with concern” of Fakhrizadeh’s killing. “In a context of regional tensions, we are closely monitoring its repercussions in Iran and the region,” the ministry said.

Paris advised calm on all sides.

“We are calling for restraint in order to keep the channels of dialogue and negotiation open,” the French Foreign Ministry said. “In this context, we reiterate our calls for efforts to avoid an escalation of tensions.”

Germany also urged cooler heads to prevail as the temperature rose on heated Middle East frictions.

“We call on all parties to avoid taking any action which could lead to a new escalation of the situation” which “we absolutely do not need at this moment,” a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement that appeared in Agence France-Presse.

The spokesperson noted that the situation was especially complicated by an imminent change of power in Washington, where Biden has vowed to return to the nuclear deal when he takes office next month.

“Weeks before a new government takes office in the United States, existing dialogue with Iran must be maintained in order to resolve through negotiation the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program,” the spokesperson said.

U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, for his part, offered a similar sentiment pending a clearer understanding of the situation.

“We are concerned about the situation in Iran and the wider region. We do want to see a deescalation of tensions,” Raab told Sky News on Sunday.

Based on what he’s observed so far, however, he saw a potential criminal element in the killing of a scientist, even if he did have a military background.

“We’re still waiting to see the full facts of what’s happened in Iran, but I would say that we stick to the rule of international humanitarian law, which is very clear against targeting civilians,” Raab said.

Members of Iranian forces pray around the coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during the burial ceremony at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in northern Tehran, on November 30. Iran said Israel and an exiled opposition group used new and “complex” methods to assassinate its leading nuclear scientist, as it buried him in a funeral befitting a top “martyr” featuring his face alongside those of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both of whom were killed in a U.S. strike in January. HAMED MALEKPOUR/TASNIM NEWS/AFP/Getty Images

Two thirds of the E3 possess nuclear weapons, with the French arsenal estimated at 290 and the U.K.’s at around 230. As members of the NATO military alliance, they, along with Germany, also operate a collective defense pact led largely by the United States.

An eighth nuclear power, believed to be the most recent, has yet to comment on the matter. North Korea has traditionally been selective in its remarks on foreign affairs, though in the case of Fakhrizadeh, the matter could be somewhat personal.

Fakhrizadeh himself reportedly traveled to North Korea to attend the third nuclear test of the elusive militarized state in 2013. The extent to which Pyongyang and Tehran’s weapons programs are linked remains a point of debate among experts and officials but both governments and their supreme leaders are linked in their skepticism and, at times, outright opposition toward the West and its global interventions.

The ninth country believed to possess nuclear weapons has never openly admitted to having them but deeply opposes efforts by other regional states to acquire them.

Israel considers its qualitative military edge over other powers into the Middle East to be an existential asset due to the ongoing hostility emanating from its original 1948 establishment and war with Arab states that backed Palestinians claiming the same territory. Today, five Arab states have normalized relations with Israel, three—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan—since August, and Iran remains the top priority.

The Israel Defense Forces recently told Newsweek its personnel “remain vigilant as ever, prepared for various Iranian attacks and they stand ready to defend Israeli civilians.” The Israeli military declined to comment further on the subject of Fakhrizadeh’s killing.

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, told Newsweek his country too “is perfectly capable of defending its people and its territory,” remaining vigilant as ever against potential threats.

As for revenge, he warned Iran would act at its own pace and place.

Retaliation for Dr. Fakhrizadeh’s assassination will come in due course against the perpetrators of the terrorist action,” Miryousefi said, “and at a time and place of our choosing,”

The Antichrist may be preparing a bid to be Iraq’s next prime minister

Muqtada al-Sadr may be preparing a bid to be Iraq’s next prime minister

The populist cleric appears to be gearing up for the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for June 2021 in a bid to win the premiership.

Omar al-Jaffal

Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader of the Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr has launched what looks like an early electoral campaign in preparation for the parliamentary elections slated for June 6. Sadr had said before that he would not participate in the elections this time, but he has changed his mind and declared that not only will he participate in the elections, he also plans to win a majority required to gain the premiership.

Sadr has ordered his followers to gather on Dec. 4, in a mass demonstration attending Friday pray and declare unity against the opponents. This was seen as mobilization for widespread participation in the early parliamentary elections.

In the same vein, thousands of his supporters answered Sadr’s call to demonstrate in Tahrir Square in the center of Baghdad on Nov. 27, demanding “an end to corruption.”

Sadr did not attend the protests to address his supporters, some of whom were wearing army fatigues. He sent a representative, Sheikh Khudhayer al-Ansari, who tried to emulate the religious and political oratory style of Sadr and his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.

Sadr’s propaganda among his supporters is that he “does not seek to be in power” but “wants to vanquish those who want to harm Iraq.”

The top Shiite cleric tried to reassure the people and political forces that his move to win the elections will not be through “violence, killings, starting fires, blocking roads, bombing, occupation or any form of injustice.”

Nonetheless, Sadr’s supporters put on quite a violent show in the city of Nasiriyah, capital of the Dhi Qar governorate, raising speculation that Sadr might resort to violence to snatch a victory in the early elections and secure the position of prime minister.

On the evening of Nov. 27, Sadr’s supporters clashed with sit-in protesters at Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah, killing seven people and wounding more than 70.

Protesters in Dhi Qar said that Sadr’s supporters wanted to take over the square and disperse the sit-in, which resulted in clashes between the two sides.

A few hours after the brawl, Sadr’s supporters set ablaze the protesters’ tents in Haboubi Square, which have been pitched since October 2019. These protesters have been calling for real reforms and holding those who killed their friends accountable. They were not satisfied with the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, nor with Mustafa al-Khadimi’s promises of early elections, which did not persuade them to end their demonstrations, as happened in Baghdad.

The protesters in Dhi Qar built new tents, returned to the square, and continue to protest.

It is true that the Iraqi cleric urged his supporters to join the October 2019 demonstrations, but he turned against the protesters months later, which prompted them to shout slogans against him in the streets. Sadr is criticized by many on the streets of Iraq. 

According to observers, Muqtada wants to end the protests.

Sadr got what he wanted from the demonstrations, which is a new electoral law approved by parliament,” a source in the Iraqi Communist Party told Al-Monitor. “People in the streets are no longer sparing Sadr in their slogans and chants.”

Sadr does not seem to be banking on the votes of Iraqi protesters in the upcoming elections, especially since the new electoral law divides Iraq into small electoral districts, which works to the advantage of the Sadrist movement — capable of distributing its supporters’ votes to its candidates. Meanwhile, protesters are divided and split between different groups.

Sadrist parliament members have been intensifying their television appearances on political programs in a bid to promote voting in the elections; they’re calling on demonstrators to end their protests and resort instead to elections to bring about the political change they demand.

Harith Hasan, a nonresident senior fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, said the “Sadrist movement widely believes that the new electoral law would allow it to increase its seats in parliament because the seats in the new electoral law have been distributed widely in different Iraqi districts, and Sadrists believe they can gain more seats by managing their voters to vote for a specific candidate in each district.”

During Iraq’s three parliamentary elections held between 2005 and 2014, the Sadrist movement maintained about 11% of the seats. In the 2018 vote, however, it won about 15.8% of the parliamentary seats, making it the largest bloc with 52 parliament members.

Amin Zwair, a parliament member for Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance, said, “The Sadrist supporters are ideological, and we can direct them.”

He told Al-Monitor, “When we instruct our voters to vote for a candidate, they do it.”

Yet it seems unlikely that the Sadrist movement will have the upper hand in the Cabinet formation, as the Iraqi political game does not guarantee a parliamentary majority for any party without having to form alliances with other political forces. The political parties will not feel comfortable handing over the most important positions in the Iraqi government to Sadr.

In fact, the results of the elections cannot be predicted as of now, but the Sadrist movement appears to be playing its cards to try and seize a win and has already launched its electoral campaign by mobilizing people in large demonstrations in the street. Most importantly, no one can predict Sadr’s next move.

Closing in to World War-3: Revelation 16

World War-3 Could Start From Asia With Nuclear-Tipped India & Israel Likely To Be Involved In The Showdown

EurAsian Times DeskDecember 3, 2020

Amid increasing tensions between India and Pakistan, Pakistan PM Imran Khan attended a  supposedly ‘very important’ meeting at the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s intelligence agency, on November 29.

Within 24 hours of the high-profile meeting, a Pakistani fighter plane is said to have intruded close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Nadeem Raza, Air Chief Mujahid Anwar, Navy Chief Amjad Khan Niazi, Chief of General staff Sahir Shamshad Mirza and General Faiz Hameed.

India and Pakistan, along with China, have been at loggerheads ever since India’s PM Narendra Modi abrogated Article 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, on August 5, 2019. India is now reportedly ‘planning’ to deploy the Rafael fighter jets to give it deterrence against Pakistan. 

The latest provocation came on May 8, 2020, when India decided to air the Gilgit-Baltistan weather report on its public broadcasters — All India Radio and Doordarshan– which made China ‘see red’ and it led to India losing 20 soldiers on June 15, 2020, in Ladakh.

Thereafter, India’s defense minister went on to state in Parliament that China had already acquired 38,000 sq km of Indian land in Ladakh on September 17, 2020. 

Imran Khan visits ISI headquarters on 29 November

But, ironically, PM Modi had on June 20, 2020, stated that no one had intruded inside the Indian territory. China is also eying Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and even Himachal Pradesh.

India has vowed to fight it out with China. Every media outlet had been agog, since last May, with reports of Indian and China-Pakistan military build-up, with the situation day-by-day building towards a two-front war against India.  

Pakistan, ironically, has been hampered by what may be called ‘deft diplomacy’ by India as its time-tested ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), has ditched the country over Kashmir. This has forced Pakistan to return its remaining $2-billion loan and snapping the oil supply on deferred loan, with the UAE also canceling 3000 job visas to Pakistan. 

There are now reports that the KSA and the UAE have threatened to undermine the Pakistan Stock Exchange as both want Pakistan to accept Israel, which the former has refused.

The two influential Arab countries have also been regularly threatening that they would send back millions of Pakistani workers, which India is too ready to replace, after substantive negotiations by India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar during his tour to Bahrain and the UAE on November 24-25. He is also to visit KSA soon.

India too has had a setback with its long-time ally Russia, which it sidelined going ahead with signing BECA with the US, to be able to counter-balance China, which has been the country’s long desire since the China war of 1962.

Meanwhile, Israel is backing India without any conditions to meet the two-front China-Pakistan threat on its north-west and north-east borders. Pakistan had distanced itself from KSA on August 6, 2020, and on August 14, the UAE accepted Israel. Israel’s creations are concomitant with India, both for its ideological and business interests with the country.  

The stage is getting set for another ‘world war’. Iran is contemplating to attack the US and the Israeli assets after its nuclear scientist was murdered allegedly by the Israel intelligence agency, Mossad, and the US have been encircling China in its the South China Sea with the help of Japan, India, Australia, and Taiwan. 

The situation in the Himalayas is also getting more and more intense as Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe visited Nepal on November 28. India had raised strong objections to Nepal announcing a new map in its parliament comprising Indian territories, in May 2020.

Wei also visited Pakistan, barely a few hours after Pakistan aircraft had created a controversy, as reports suggest that India and China had already deployed elite commandos on either side of the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Perhaps, Wei’s visit is the final call that war is coming.

As the world inches closer to war, it would have to be a catastrophe as India, China and Pakistan are nuclear powers, and the world today has certainly reached a point where a small ‘spark’ may snowball into a full-fledged war. 

The killing of the Iranian scientist by Israel, which was on the cards for a long time, may turn out to be the next ‘Sarajevo’ incident, which Joseph Biden might inherit or has to face after ascending to power on January 21, 2021. The undeclared nuclear state Israel has just reportedly killed another Iranian commander Muslim Shahdan on December 1, 2020. 

Iran, as a matter of fact, had avenged the killing of its General Qasem Soleimani by the US, within a month when top CIA official Michael D’Andrea aka ‘Ayatollah Mike’ was killed with the help of Afghan-Taliban, reported Asia Times, on February 7, 2020.

Maybe the long-anticipated war, which is expected to be nothing short in its propensity of a third world-war is round the corner as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.

Iran is almost nuclear ready: Daniel 8

Iran Moves to Increase Uranium Enrichment and Bar Nuclear Inspectors

Iran’s response to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist poses an early challenge to the Biden administration, and may be seen as a provocation by President Trump.

Dec. 2, 2020

Iran responded Wednesday to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist by enacting a law ordering an immediate ramping up of its enrichment of uranium to levels closer to weapons-grade fuel.

The measure also requires the expulsion of international nuclear inspectors if American sanctions are not lifted by early February, posing a direct challenge to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

It was not clear whether the action was the totality of the Iranian response to the killing of the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom American and Israeli intelligence agencies regarded as the guiding force of past efforts by Tehran to design a nuclear weapon, or whether more was to come. Iranian officials have vowed to avenge his killing.

By Farnaz Fassihi and David E. Sanger

Dec. 2, 2020

Iran responded Wednesday to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist by enacting a law ordering an immediate ramping up of its enrichment of uranium to levels closer to weapons-grade fuel.

The measure also requires the expulsion of international nuclear inspectors if American sanctions are not lifted by early February, posing a direct challenge to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

It was not clear whether the action was the totality of the Iranian response to the killing of the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom American and Israeli intelligence agencies regarded as the guiding force of past efforts by Tehran to design a nuclear weapon, or whether more was to come. Iranian officials have vowed to avenge his killing.

The new law orders Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency to resume enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent immediately, returning Iran’s program to the maximum level that existed before the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with the Obama administration.

Uranium enriched to that level would give Iran the ability to convert its entire stockpile to bomb-grade levels within six months. Despite the lag time, the order to start the process may be seen by the Trump administration as a provocation in its waning days.

Just three weeks ago, after news of modest advances in the size of Iran’s nuclear stockpile, Mr. Trump asked his advisers about military options to stop the country from producing the fuel. He was talked out of considering an attack by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the fiercest of the Iran hawks in the administration, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark A. Milley, among other senior officials.

The new law also sets a two-month deadline for oil and banking sanctions against Iran to be lifted before inspectors are barred, creating a potential crisis for the early days of the Biden administration. The inspections conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a branch of the United Nations, have been the main public source of information about the progress of Iran’s program.

The timing seems deliberately intended to press Mr. Biden to re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran immediately upon taking office. Mr. Biden has said he would be willing to do so, at least as a starting point, if Iran once again respected the limitations of the 2015 deal.

THE ASSASSINATION

Was the real purpose of killing Iran’s top nuclear scientist to limit President-elect Biden’s options?

The speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the measure was meant to send the West a message in the aftermath of the assassination that the “one-way game is over.”

Iran’s Parliament, dominated by conservatives, initially passed the law in an angry session on Tuesday in which lawmakers fumed over the killing of Mr. Fakhrizadeh. A physicist and a high-ranking official in the Defense Ministry, he was killed on Friday in a complex ambush, the details of which are still being debated.

A number of intelligence officials have said Israel was responsible for the attack, though the Israeli government has remained silent.

“The criminal enemy will not feel remorse unless we show a fierce reaction,” Mr. Qalibaf said. Lawmakers stood up in the chamber with fists in the air, chanting “death to Israel” and “death to America” as they passed the bill in a televised session.

The law was ratified Wednesday by Iran’s Guardian Council, an appointed body that oversees the elected government.

President Hassan Rouhani, whose government negotiated the 2015 Iran accord over the objection of Iranian hard-liners, had opposed the legislation, calling it counterproductive.

“The government does not agree with this legislation and considers it damaging for diplomacy,” he said Wednesday before the measure was ratified.

His government is now obliged to carry out the law, though outside experts noted that it could slow-walk the effort, citing technical challenges. And ramping production up to the levels required in the bill would require revisions in the infrastructure deep inside Iran’s main nuclear facility at Natanz — the same one that was hit by a devastating Israeli-American cyber-strike more than a decade ago.

Uranium enriched to 20 percent purity is a quick hop to bomb-grade uranium, which is roughly 90 percent pure. But getting from the current levels of 4 or 5 percent enrichment to 20 percent is a far bigger leap than the final move to bomb-grade fuel.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, though American intelligence assessed that Iran had a fully active, secret weapons program run by Mr. Fakhrizadeh until 2003. Israeli officials and some American intelligence officials believe that program has continued at a lower level; the scientist was slapped with new American sanctions in recent years.

By mandating a restoration of production and enrichment levels, the new law essentially wipes away the last of the main constraints negotiated by President Barack Obama and a team of diplomats led by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Under that agreement, which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018, Iran shipped most of its nuclear stockpile out of the country, to Russia. The agreement also limited enrichment to under 4 percent.

A year after Mr. Trump pulled out of the nuclear accord, Iran began rebuilding the stockpile and inching up the enrichment levels. The new law is clearly designed as a pressure device aimed at removing economic sanctions, which have crippled Iraq’s economy and choked off much of its oil exports.

Barring international inspectors, the State Department said Wednesday, would violate Iran’s legal obligations under existing nuclear agreements.

“We have full confidence in the I.A.E.A. to continue carrying out its verification and monitoring activities in Iran, and to report to the board of governors if there is any shortfall in Iran’s cooperation,” the State Department said in an emailed statement.

It was not immediately clear how long it would take Iran to reach 20 percent enrichment, but David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said it could be done in as little as six months.

“They know how to do it,” Mr. Albright said in an interview. “They’ve done it before. Something less than six months is the worst-case scenario if they devote all their resources to it.”

Mr. Rouhani’s top adviser, Hesameddin Ashena, said that the brief window for Mr. Biden to act after taking office could allow the hard-line faction to take credit for lifting sanctions and for getting Washington to re-enter the nuclear deal by threat instead of by diplomacy.

But it is far from clear that Iran will be willing to simply go back to the old levels. Some officials have demanded that the United States first pay reparations to Iran for lost oil sales since Mr. Trump reimposed sanctions. Some of Mr. Biden’s aides have said that they could not imagine how that could be politically possible.

And while Mr. Biden has said he wants to go back to the deal, he has also said that returning now to the original provisions, which expired in 2030, would be insufficient. The accord would have to be extended and expanded.

The Biden transition team declined to comment on the Iranian law.

“I think the law is a clear sign that Tehran will not be taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude toward Biden’s Iran policy,” said Henry Rome, a senior Iran analyst at Eurasia Group. “Tehran wants to be at the top of the agenda for the new administration, and escalating its nuclear program is a surefire way to do it.”

The concept of expelling inspectors is not a new one. North Korea did the same during a standoff with the Clinton administration in 1994, and also renounced the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which it was a member.

In 2006 the North exploded its first nuclear device, and it has conducted a half-dozen or so tests since. Iran and North Korea have cooperated extensively on missile technology in the years since, and Iranian officials have carefully studied the North Korean experience.

Katie Glueck, William J. Broad and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

Israel Appears Headed for Elections as Iran Nukes Up

Israel Appears Headed for Elections as Iran Digs in Nuclear Feet

HonestReporting StaffDecember 2, 2020

In a preliminary vote, Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to disperse the legislature and head towards a fourth election in two years. The move came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief coalition partner,  Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, announced Tuesday night that his Blue and White party would back a motion to dissolve parliament.

Netanyahu and Gantz earlier this year joined forces after the latter broke away from an alliance with Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid, who is currently opposition leader. At the time, Gantz said he thought unity was necessary in order to combat the coronavirus crisis. Under the coalition agreement, he is slated to become premier next November.

While disagreement over the 2021 national budget is the ostensible reason for the current political impasse, most analysts agree that mutual distrust and constant bickering between Netanyahu and Gantz has paralyzed the government.

With Blue and White now favoring disbanding parliament unless Netanyahu makes unlikely concessions, a majority of lawmakers is expected on Wednesday to vote to bring down the Jewish state’s 35th government. However, the bill will subsequently have to pass three additional readings in the Knesset before Israelis are forced back to the polls, likely at the beginning of spring.

Iran’s parliament passed legislation requiring the country to suspend United Nations inspections and ignore other restraints on its nuclear program unless economic sanctions are lifted and Tehran is granted renewed access to global banking and oil markets within a month.

“Death to America! Death to Israel!,” Iranian lawmakers chanted after passing a draft of the bill in a session broadcast live on state radio. The move, which comes less than a week after the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is being construed by many as symbolic given that the final say on nuclear issues rests in the hands of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

Meanwhile, Tehran’s demand that the United Nations Security Council condemn Fakhrizadeh’s targeted killing and take action against those responsible has gone unheeded.

The normalization deal between Israel and Sudan is reportedly at risk of falling apart due to a demand by Khartoum that the United States Congress pass legislation by the end of the year that would protect the North African country from terror-related lawsuits.

Sudan was the third Arab state — after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — to publicly agree to establish ties with Israel over the past three months. It did so under considerable pressure from the Trump Administration, which reportedly demanded that Khartoum normalize ties with the Jewish state in exchange for sanctions relief and access to international credit.

Sudan was placed on the US list of “state sponsors of terror” in 1993.

Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a spokesman for the Islamist terrorist group announced.

Sinwar, 58, is “following the advice of health authorities and taking precautionary measures,” Hazem Qassem said; this, without disclosing the Hamas chief’s condition.

Sinwar, a former head of the terror group’s security apparatus, became the organization’s leader in the Gaza Strip in 2017, six years after he was freed in a prisoner swap with Israel.

Authorities in the coastal Palestinian enclave have registered nearly 21,000 coronavirus cases and 111 deaths.

An Israeli woman with muscular dystrophy was elected to serve on a United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Odelia Fitoussi, 43, is the first Israeli to sit on the body comprising only nine people. She received support from 109 countries.

In response, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted:

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Fitoussi, who was born with a genetic neuromuscular disorder known as SMA2, telling her that he appreciates the “abilities and skills that led her to be elected to a significant and important position in the international arena.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD, is a body of independent experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed by nearly every country in the world.

“I feel privileged to be a member of the CRPD, the place where Israel was a partner in creating a new language for people with disabilities, a language of rights, of pride in who you are, in our uniqueness as people with disabilities who enrich society with all the good we have built,” Fitoussi said in a statement.