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.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s calls to restore the “Shiite Home” were viewed as an attempt to revive the electoral Shiite alliance that cracked during recent legislative elections.
His tweet raised the ire of national parties in the country that believe it constitutes a return to square one and an entrenchment of the sectarian situation that has marked the political arena since 2003 — with the presence of a Shiite Home, a Sunni front and a Kurdish alliance.
Sairoon Alliance parliament member Riyad al-Massoudi said that “the media outlets misinterpreted Sadr’s tweet about restoring the Shiite Home.” He told Al-Monitor, “Restoring the Shiite Home means revisiting mistakes made by joint Shiite parties in the rule and putting [together] an ideological honor pact to face the challenges from opposing or radical groups.” He noted that “although the Shiite political parties welcomed Sadr’s call, they will not take practical steps to discuss them, out of fear that Sadr would lead the campaign or the dialogues and influence the coming elections.”
But the remaining Shiite parties had their reservations on the project to revive the Shiite Home — or they simply refrained from commenting on Sadr’s proposition. Al-Nasr Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, suggested resorting to a national honor pact instead of reviving the traditional Shiite conglomerate. The alliance said in a statement, “Based on Sadr’s call, and in line with the demands for reform and change voiced during the October Revolution, and to ensure the principle of integration between parties, figures, and political and social groups, we call for launching a systematic movement to adopt an honor pact as a national principles’ framework that binds all Iraqi figures and forces.”
Perhaps not all influential Shiite parties responded to the idea of restoring the coalition/Shiite Home — despite their desire to keep sectarian blocs and alliances — because they believed Sadr’s steps fell into his plans to take over the premiership in the next phase, which he clearly declared on Nov. 22.
“If the elections result in a Sadrist majority in parliament and Sadrists will get the premiership, I can, with their help and as we had vowed, continue the reform project from within and run in the elections,” Sadr had declared. He is trying to capitalize on the previous electoral experience where he did not achieve the comfortable majority (54 seats), while he allied with some representatives of the civil movement, the Sairoon Alliance. The biggest bloc that was constitutionally tasked with the premiership remained stuck between him and the Fatah Alliance, which includes representatives from the armed Shiite factions led by Hadi al-Amiri in 2018.
Accordingly, Sadr ended his alliance with the civil movement in two ways: the first when he faced popular protests calling for political and economic reform in the country with violence, and the second when he described the experience of an alliance with the civil movement as “bitter.”
Sadr may have found that the path of his political current to the premiership will only be through the Shiite alliance (sectarian), and his leadership of this alliance by warming up to traditional Shiite blocs. When he found the popular reaction unwelcoming, he changed his rhetoric and stated that his call was for “ideological reform” rather than a political call.
Still, Sadr’s new approach toward the “Communist Party” and the civil current also reflected the extent of disagreement and political and public damage that each side caused the other. According to former parliament member of the civil movement Sharq Al-Abayji, the civil movement stated that its experience with the Sadrist movement damaged their relationship. “The alliance with the [Sadrist] movement was not right at the time, because it came during the period of the rise of the civil current and popular desire for change and a civil state. The alliance stymied this public enthusiasm for a civil state,” Abayji said.
By Rebecca Kheel
December 21, 2020 – 01:24 PM EST
A U.S. guided-missile submarine passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the Navy said Monday, in a rare disclosure of the movements of one of the United States’s nuclear-powered submarines.
The USS Georgia submarine, along with guided-missile cruisers USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea, entered the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, according to a news release from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
“Georgia’s presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to sail and operate wherever international law allows,” the release said.
“As an inherently flexible maneuver force, capable of supporting routine and contingency operations, Georgia’s presence demonstrates the United States’ commitment to regional partners and maritime security with a full spectrum of capabilities to remain ready to defend against any threat at any time,” it added.
The release also highlighted that U.S. guided-missile submarines can “carry up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles” and “can also be configured to host up to 66 Special Operations Forces.”
The U.S. military rarely discusses the movements of its submarines. Monday’s announcement comes as U.S. officials are on alert for heightened tensions in the Middle East surrounding the upcoming anniversary of the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani was killed Jan. 3 by a U.S. drone strike while he was in Iraq. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Iran or its proxies could further retaliate for the killing near its anniversary.
“We are prepared to defend ourselves, our friends and partners in the region, and we’re prepared to react, if necessary,” U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters recently when asked about the possibility of Iranian action on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death.
On Sunday, eight rockets were fired into Baghdad’s International Zone in an attack targeting the U.S. embassy that U.S. officials blamed on Iran-backed militias. The attack caused “minor damage” to the embassy compound, but no personnel were injured or killed, the embassy said.
The Iraqi military said one of its soldiers was injured, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said one Iraqi civilian was injured.
“As Iraq struggles with COVID-19 and an increasingly dire economic crisis, Iran-backed militias are the most serious impediment to helping Iraq return to peace and prosperity,” Pompeo said in a statement Sunday. “The same militias targeting diplomatic facilities are stealing Iraqi state resources on a massive scale, attacking peaceful protesters and activists, and engaging in sectarian violence.”
Iran denied responsibility for the attack.
“We strongly refute @SecPompeo’s irresponsible anti-#Iran accusations, which blatantly aim to create tension,” a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, tweeted. “Iran rejects any attack on diplomatic missions. The U.S. military presence is the source of instability in our region. No amount of spin can divert blame for its evils.”
The US Embassy has intercepted at least three rockets fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone. The attack comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The US Embassy in the Baghdad Green Zone was targeted in a rocket attack on Sunday, according to reports.
Iraqi security officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the embassy’s C-RAM defense system shot down the rockets in midair, causing minor damage to a residential complex and parked cars. There were no reports of casualties.
“The US Embassy confirms rockets targeting the International Zone (Green Zone) resulted in the engagement of embassy defensive systems,” said a statement released by the embassy.
“We call on all Iraqi political and governmental leaders to take steps to prevent such attacks and hold accountable those responsible,” the statement said.
Explosions heard across Baghdad
Joyce Karam, correspondent for The National based in the United Arab Emirates, shared a video on Twitter of the rockets being intercepted and wrote that the embassy had been “targeted with barrage of Katyusha Rockets and mortar shells.”
Reporters with Agence France-Presse in Baghdad heard at least five loud explosions followed by whistling sounds.
“Everyone is screaming and crying. My wife is losing it from all the terrifying sounds,” a local Iraqi man, whose house was hit, told AFP.
The attack took place two weeks ahead of the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, which was directed by Washington.
The US withdrew some staff from its Baghdad embassy earlier in December in expectation of reprisals.
“We are prepared to defend ourselves, our friends and partners in the region, and we’re prepared to react if necessary,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US forces in the Middle East, speaking with journalists after the attack.
Sunday’s attack was the third apparent violation of a truce agreed in October by Western and Iraqi authorities with hard-line and pro-Iran groups.
Several groups have unexpectedly condemned Sunday’s attack, including the populist cleric and former militant leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Iraqi Shia paramilitary group Kataeb Hezbollah, which itself has been accused of carrying out previous attacks, said that “bombing the (US) embassy of evil at this time is considered out of order.”
The Trump administration has accused Iran of being behind a recent spate of attacks on US interests in the country and has warned Baghdad that it will close its embassy unless Iraq can get the attacks under control.
In November, President Donald Trump announced a reduction of US troops in Iraq by January, before he leaves office.
ab/dj (AP, Reuters, AFP)
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
December 21, 2020
By selling hallucination of false statehood, mega-terror outfit Hamas has emerged into the second wealthiest terrorist entity in the world, after Islamic State (ISIS). According to media reports, the main funding sources of Hamas are taxes and fees, financial aid, and donations (especially from Qatar). Until 2014, the annual turnover of this notorious terrorist group was US$ 1 billion, while it is well anticipated that the amount of annual of Hamas has significantly increased during the past six years.
Hamas has emerged into a major terrorist entity ever-since it took over Gaza strip back in 2007. In less than a decade, Hamas managed to turn the organization – which used to rely on donations from countries and charities – into a huge jihadist conglomerate. More than 15 percent of Gaza’s economy ends up in this organization’s pocket, through taxes and levies on goods and consumer goods entering the Gaza Strip, such as cigarettes and gasoline, and licensing fees for cars, motorcycles, and even carts. Taxes that once went to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah now goes to Hamas.
For years, Hamas has been making tons of money from the smuggling tunnels underneath the Egyptian border. But, due to actions taken by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, this source of income had dried out. But this notorious terror outfit has been receiving a huge amount of donations from Qatar and Iran. It may be mentioned here that, major portion of the international aid to Gaza actually goes into the pockets of Hamas leaders and the organization. In addition, Hamas also runs hundreds of businesses such as real estate, insurance, banking, hotels and tourism, fish farming, and banquet halls.
To multiply its income inflow, Hamas is also involved in transnational drug trafficking and the running of brothels and bars in a number of countries, including Lebanon, the Netherlands, Columbia, Mexico, and Britain. Years ago, Hamas and Shi’ite terror outfit Hezbollah has joined Mexican and Columbian drug cartels, thus forming an international chain of transnational drug trafficking. In Afghanistan, Hamas has established direct links with poppy cultivators, wherefrom cocaine is trafficked to destinations like Mexico and Columbia, while in recent years, Hamas has also established its narco-trafficking bases in a number of Caribbean island nations.
In Gaza, Hamas uses various Mafia methods to maximize its income. For example, after purchasing a banquet hall – a lucrative business in Gaza – a string of miss-fortunes befell Hamas’s competition. Hamas also took over several banks, and everyone that wishes to do business with the government in Gaza needs to certify they are working with the right bank.
In Britain, Hamas members are actively involved in money laundering as it has a wide network in the Middle East as well as some of the Muslim nations including Pakistan. Arabs and Asian Muslims generally use Hamas channels in laundering money from Britain to other destinations.
Following the December 2008 Israeli operations, a United Nations survey of Gaza residents found an increase in risk-taking behavior, including a significant rise in the cases of drug addiction. One drug associated with this trend was Tramadol, first developed in Germany during the 1970s and introduced in the 1990s as a centrally acting analgesic with properties similar to codeine and morphine and which is widely prescribed as a pain killer.
Although illegal without a prescription in some regions, Tramadol was relatively easy to obtain in Gaza, either with fake prescriptions from Hamas affiliated pharmacies or on the black market. News reports prior to the 2008 Israeli operations suggested that up to 30 percent of males between the ages of 14 and 30 had already been using Tramadol on a regular basis, with some 15,000 showing signs of addiction.
During recent years, Hamas has introduced another type of drug named Yaba (also known as meth), which is produced in Myanmar and trafficked through sea routes. Hamas also controls a portion of Yaba trafficking to some other countries including the Philippines, where Islamic State also is involved in the same trade.
Hamas also has established a well-organized human trafficking network, through which, mostly Jordanians, Palestinians, Yemenis, and Egyptians are sent to various destinations in Europe. It may be mentioned here that, during the coronavirus pandemic, an unaccounted number of illegal migrants have landed into European soils, including Britain through the sea routes. In course of time, these illegal Arab migrants, once granted asylum may turn into Hamas activists, thus posing a massive threat to the security of the nations
The atomic enrichment facilities Natanz nuclear research center, some 300 kilometres south of Tehran, can be seen. (File/AFP)
Now that the electoral college has affirmed Joe Biden’s election as the next US President, the White House is probably going to resurrect the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly called the Iran nuclear deal.
As Biden made clear in an opinion piece for CNN: “I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern.”
A few days after Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was pulling out of the nuclear deal. Currently Iran is violating all the restrictions of the JCPOA, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tehran has increased its total stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 1,020.9kg to 1,571.6kg, about eight times what the regime was allowed to maintain under the nuclear deal. According to the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was permitted to keep a stockpile of 202.8kg, and enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. It is now enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent and possesses far more heavy water than permitted under the nuclear agreement. Moreover, according to the IAEA report, Iran is not allowing the IAEA to inspect its sites.
Approximately 1,000kg of uranium enriched to just 5 percent can be further refined to create one nuclear bomb. This means that the Iranian regime now has enough enriched uranium to refine and build a nuclear bomb if it desires to do so.
In spite of all these violations, the theocratic establishment is more than eager to rejoin the nuclear deal. The Iranian president recently announced that Tehran would return to the agreement an hour after the US rejoins it. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said much the same in November. It follows that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is probably on board, since the president and foreign minister would have not signaled their willingness to rejoin the deal without permission from the man who enjoys the final say in Tehran’s foreign and domestic policies.
Iran is more than willing to rejoin the nuclear deal mainly due to the boost that it will bring to the regime’s economy and finances.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
In fact, Iran is desperate to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. First, it gives a significant financial boost to the regime. Tehran can ramp up its oil exports substantially. The Iranian authorities are already preparing installations to export oil at full capacity within months. According to Rouhani’s official website, he has told the oil ministry “to prepare resources and oil-industry equipment for the production and export of oil in line with current capacity within the next three months.”
Before Donald Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal and began the maximum pressure policy against the Iranian regime, Tehran was exporting more than 2 millions barrels of oil per day. In the past two years, Iran’s oil exports have been as low as 100,000 barrels a day. The regime heavily relies on oil revenues to run the government. As the president admitted recently: “Without money, we cannot run the affairs of the state. Although we have some other income, the only revenue that can keep the country going is the oil money.”
Second, the nuclear deal will open the road for the West to invest in Iran’s sectors and the Iranian leaders desire foreign investment. After the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, Iranian leaders even invited American oil companies to do business Iran.
This suggests that the Islamic Republic is willing to put its economic interests ahead of its revolutionary ideological interests. In return, the economic profits will definitely help the regime export and spread its revolutionary ideologies and principles in the region.
Third, rejoining the nuclear deal will provide global legitimacy for Iran. This means that its support for militia groups and its military adventurism and destructive behavior in the Middle East is more likely to be tolerated or ignored by world powers.
In a nutshell, Iran is more than willing to rejoin the nuclear deal mainly due to the boost that it will bring to the regime’s economy and finances.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view
News and Press Release Source Al Mezan Posted 20 Dec 2020 Originally published 18 Dec 2020 Origin View original
Al Mezan condemns the act and calls for international intervention
On Wednesday morning, 16 December 2020, Israeli military bulldozers crossed the perimeter fence into the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Younis, reaching up to 200 meters into agricultural lands in Abasan al-Kabira, Khuza’a, and al-Fukhari. For hours, Israeli troops razed and leveled Palestinian lands and crops—some of which had been prepared for planting—and eventually left placards written in both Arabic and Hebrew demanding that the Palestinian farmers uproot their crops in the area “within a certain time frame” otherwise the military “is going to remove them.”
During a similar incident on Thursday, 17 December 2020, farmers in the Rafah district also reported that they had found similar placards on their farmlands located 100 meters from the perimeter fence.
Israel, the Occupying Power, continues to carry out land incursions and to maintain its closure policy over the Gaza Strip even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 global health crisis and related concerns for the financial situation and food insecurity in the Strip, directly violating its obligation to protect the human rights of civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip.
These regular incursions and movement restrictions in the Israeli-imposed buffer zone in Gaza are not only life-threatening, but they also severely harm the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinian farmers. For instance, Israel periodically conducts aerial spraying of herbicides over Palestinian farmlands to destroy vegetation adjacent to the perimeter fence and has often employed lethal force to ward off farmers. At a time when families across the whole Gaza Strip are at higher risk of food insecurity and poverty, the impact of Israel’s relentless attacks on farmlands in the buffer zone has increased.
Al Mezan strongly condemns Israel’s targeting of Palestinian farmers and warns of the grave repercussions it has on their lives, most notably, the role such attacks play in stifling the Strip’s economic development and exacerbating the dire living conditions of Gaza’s population, especially during the pandemic.
Accordingly, Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations towards the Palestinian people by exerting pressure on Israel to cease all the attacks against Palestinian farmers and lift the blockade and closure unilaterally imposed on the Gaza Strip, in addition to ensuring accountability for all suspected violations of international law perpetrated in the occupied Palestinian territory.