New York Earthquake 1884Friday, 18 March 2011 – 9:23pm IST | Place: NEW YORK | Agency: ANIIf the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.There’s another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures during a meeting with organizers of events to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 16, 2020. Photo: Official Khamenei Website / Handout via Reuters.
In an interview with Reuters on December 17, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi expressed disapproved of President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to return to the JCPOA agreement, the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between the five powers and Germany (P5 + 1) and Tehran. Grossi said:
I cannot imagine that they are going simply to say “We are back to square one” because square one is no longer there. … It is clear that there will have to be a protocol or an agreement or an understanding or some ancillary document which will stipulate clearly what we do. … There is more [nuclear] material … there is more activity, there are more centrifuges [in Iran].
Biden stated in an interview he gave on July 30, 2019 that he intends to return the US to the nuclear deal, albeit with amendments, and lift the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration. As for Iran, it has announced its readiness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal provided the agreement is not altered.
In light of recent developments regarding the Iranian nuclear program, such as the killing on November 27 of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, and the findings released by the IAEA in its quarterly report of November 11, it is difficult to see how Biden can turn his intention to return to the nuclear deal into reality. Much depends on the people he appoints to carry out his plan. One likely candidate is Tony Blinken, former Deputy Secretary of State in the Obama administration and Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State. Blinken recently announced that he would try to improve the Iran deal, but believes rejoining the deal is an “urgent” priority.
It remains to be seen whether Biden will appoint members of the original US delegation to the JCPOA agreement, who included then-Secretary of State John Kerry; then-Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz; and Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s personal adviser at the time.
In the latest IAEA report, emphasis was placed on Iran’s January 5 announcement that its nuclear program would no longer be “subject to any restrictions in the operational sphere.” This declaration followed Iran’s 2019 enrichment of uranium beyond 300 kg of UF6 (uranium hexa-fluoride compound), the uranium content of which is 202.8 kg. Iran also increased the enrichment rate to 4.5%, beyond the agreed limit of 3.67% — a violation of the nuclear agreement.
According to the IAEA report, the amount of uranium Iran has enriched since then exceeds 2.4 tons. The report contained detailed references to Iran’s violations of the nuclear agreement on the development and production of advanced centrifuges, as well as the start of their operations on an industrial scale, which could allow Iran to shorten the enrichment period and enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
The EU and the other signatories to the JCPOA nuclear agreement (with the exception of the US) appear for the most part to be willing to return to the agreement as is, despite the lengthening list of Iranian violations — but they call upon Tehran to refrain from destroying the chances of a diplomatic return to the agreement once Biden takes office as US president. There are indications that France takes the threat of Iranian violations somewhat more seriously than Germany and Britain. The French foreign minister’s response, when asked if a new protocol is needed for the nuclear deal, was that Iran’s actions are becoming a serious problem, especially their activities in the field of enrichment.
Another event that affected the attitude of the EU and its member states toward Iran was the execution of Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam for his role in anti-regime protests. According to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Zam’s execution was the reason why some EU member states canceled their participation in the Europe-Iran Business Forum in December. He added, however, that the EU’s talks with Iran on the nuclear issue would continue. Europe’s approach is thus much the same as it was before the signing of the agreement in 2015. Then and now, the EU was enthusiastic about reaching a deal — possibly at any cost.
In the background, of course, is the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. On December 3, the Majlis passed a series of nuclear-related decisions in response to the killing. Particularly notable was the decision to increase uranium enrichment to 20% and accumulate at least 120 kilograms of enriched uranium for this rate, an activity that could bring Iran very close to the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Other significant decisions were uranium enrichment to at least 500 kilograms per month and the resumption of the construction of a heavy water reactor (IR-40) suitable for the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, a project that had been close to completion before the signing of the nuclear agreement in 2015. It was also reported that if the nuclear deal does not return to its original state, Iran might consider itself released from all its commitments to the IAEA.
On the other hand, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that it opposes the bill, and President Hassan Rouhani has said he would refrain from signing the Majlis decisions and ratifying them as laws. He shrugged off his country’s ultra-conservatives, who could miss the “opportunity” presented by the change in administration in the US.
Iran is thus in the middle of a triangle. One leg is the IAEA, another is the non-US signatories to the agreement, and the third is the US. The IAEA is constantly on guard against Iran’s nuclear mischief. Grossi appears frustrated that the question of whether or not to continue the nuclear deal has arisen on his watch, and he may feel the Iranians are deliberately trying to provoke him and the Agency. It is likely that he wants to get out of the matter with a viable agreement in hand.
The EU’s member states, as well as Russia and China, are less troubled by fear of an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons. In their view, Iran has great potential as an economic partner. As for the US, its position on the issue is not yet clear.
Iran itself is divided between ultra-conservatives and pragmatists. The ultra-conservatives oppose any compromise and strive to reach nuclear weapons at some point — preferably soon. The pragmatists, aware of their country’s economic situation, are trying not stretch a fraying rope beyond the point of no return.
Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.
As a way to counterbalance a newly unified West under the Biden administration, China and Russia are steadily closing ranks. What was once a relatively cold relationship between Beijing and Moscow is now gradually evolving into a tacit, yet firm, geo-political and military cooperation.
Since settling their 2004 territorial dispute, Russia and China share a need for peace along their 4,200 kilometres border — conflict being too dangerous for two nuclear powers. Then there is the natural economic reciprocity between commodities-rich Russia and a resources-importing China. Crucially, Sino-Russian relations have grown unprecedentedly amicable under President Putin and President Xi Jinping’s leadership: the two regularly call each other “best friends” and vocalize their respect for one another. Both have claimed that the Sino-Russian axis has never been more aligned on geopolitical issues, including trade, Iran and the Arctic Sea.
Recently, upon being asked about a potential Russo-Chinese military rapprochement, Putin claimed he “could imagine” a military alliance with Beijing, adding that military synergies between the two countries had already reached a high level of cooperation, and that “this is an allied relationship in the full sense of a multifaceted strategic partnership.” Chinese officials welcomed his comments, noting they “demonstrate the high level and special nature of our bilateral ties” and that “there is no limit to the traditional China-Russia friendship and no restricted areas for expanding our cooperation”. Putin, in particular, has a vested interest in his rapprochement with Xi Jinping as a way to intimidate the US and EU with the prospect of a Sino-Russian bloc, with the intent of compelling the West to moderate its policies towards Russia.
What does this unprecedented Sino-Russian axis mean for the West —and, crucially, how will Biden and the EU counteract it?
A Tacit Military Alliance
In recent years, Moscow and Beijing have been deepening their military cooperation at a remarkable rate.
In 2017, Russia and China upgraded their military alignment signing a three-year plan for an unprecedented bilateral military cooperation, which involves strategic arms and the sharing of key military experience and technology-related research. Furthermore, the two capitals have been collaborating on the creation of air defense and anti-missile defense systems, while Russia is also selling its latest hardware to the Chinese government, including Su-35 fighter aircraft and S-400 missile systems. On top of that, large scale joint Sino-Russian military exercises and joint armed interventions across the world have also become more common, such as last year’s joint drills in Oman and 2017’s joint exercises in the Baltic. Lastly, the Russians are helping the Chinese in the production of a new missile launch detection system —arguably the most important apparatus in the strategic nuclear forces control system. For its part, the United States has been trying to widen its bilateral military ties with Israel and Japan on matters of breakthrough technology (including hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and automated systems), which so far has had the counter-productive effect of pushing Putin and Xi Jinping closer to a bona fide alliance. Naturally, military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing does not match the level of the military transparency shared by US allies, but it marks a sharp divergence from the past and suggests there is more room to deepen integration. In fact, military cooperation between the two is likely to spill over into other fields that would be mutually beneficial to both financially and technologically while posing little risk to national security, including strategic missile defense, hypersonic technology, and nuclear submarines.
How Will the West Counteract the Sino-Russian Axis?
Naturally, the consolidation of the Sino-Russian axis is causing growing concern in the West.
Second, the strengthening of a Russo-Chinese military rapprochement increases China’s military dominance on the world stage and brings it closer to the United States’.
The potential consequences of a world order wherein the US is no longer the principal military giant therefore explain Biden’s persistence over his foreign policy agenda. In fact, he aims to re-solidify US relations with allies — who have been left alienated by Trump’s isolationist, “America first” rhetoric — and deepen Western geopolitical, economic and military ties and interests. In particular, it is likely that the US will pressure NATO allies to increase their defense budgets and carry a larger portion of the security burden. Biden may also urge Europe to require investment reciprocity and transparency over technology and infrastructure with China.
On top of that, the Biden-Harris administration is also likely to lobby for technology transfers and investment partnerships between the EU, Japan, Canada, and Australia, thereby strengthening Western economic interdependence.
Lastly, the president-elect has already expressed his intention to sanction Russia and further challenge Moscow both domestically and geopolitically, which may ultimately push Putin deeper into Xi Jinping’s embrace.
Crucially, increased economic complementarity between Moscow and Beijing will come at the expense of European businesses. For instance, in 2016 China outperformed Germany as Russia’s primary provider of equipment and technologic products. Last year, the Russian market imported 2.5 times more in hi-tech products from Chinese businesses than German manufacturers, amounting to nearly $31 billion. As such, the deterioration of Russo-European relations will likely lead to more joint sanctions and a further decline in European technology exports to the Russian market. Crucially, energy ties — the historical backbone of Russo-European relations — will also suffer heavy losses. In the short term, it is becoming abundantly clear that American lawmakers will continue sanctioning the nearly finished Nord Stream 2 gas pipelineconnecting Russia to Europe through the Baltic Sea and Germany. Whether they will actually manage to convince Berlin to halt the project remains to be seen. In the longer term, the EU’s reliance on Russian energy will also decrease as a result of the Union’s Green Deal plan to decarbonize. As such, Russia’s international business model as well as the foundation of its relationship with Europe are going to be placed in serious jeopardy.
Unsurprisingly, Moscow has therefore started pivoting towards the Chinese market: recently, large scale projects such as the Power of Siberia pipeline and other major energy ventures have nearly doubledthe share of Chinese trade in Russia’s overall trade turnover, growing from 10% in 2013 to 18% last year.
Cold War 2.0
Following the 2014 collapse of Russia’s relations with the US and EU, Russia’s pivot to the East — as well as its prospects of economic transformation — have left Putin no option but to engage in a committed partnership with Xi Jinping. Though this quasi-alliance may remain tacit for the foreseeable future, the military and security rapprochement of the Sino-Russian axis is now indisputable. After all, Putin has far more to gain from a pragmatic partnership with Xi Jinping than with the West, even if he emerges from it as the junior, dependent partner, while China could easily replace Russia with another energy-rich nation. In fact, despite the increasing asymmetry in the alliance and apprehension about it in the Russian elite, it would be unrealistic to hope Putin will warm up to the West.
With the restoration of the Transatlantic alliance by the incoming Biden administration, rivalry among these great powers has never loomed so close.
The West will have to face the financial, geopolitical and security consequences of an increasingly belligerent Russia and a growingly assertive China working in tandem to alter the current world order. A modern Second Cold War may be more inevitable than ever before.
‘Trump thought of martial law in US’
January 10, 2021
WASHINGTON: Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that President Trump wanted to impose martial law in the country.“Throughout his tenure, but especially since losing the election…
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WASHINGTON: Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that President Trump wanted to impose martial law in the country.
“Throughout his tenure, but especially since losing the election in November, President Trump has proven himself dangerously erratic and volatile, talking with advisers about invoking the Insurrection Act and declaring martial law to rerun the election, and provoking his supporters into that shameless scene we saw at the Capitol this week,” he said.
Along with every other living former secretary of defense, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, Hagel felt alarmed enough about Trump’s behaviour to recently sign a letter calling for a peaceful transition of power to the incoming Biden administration, and insisting that the US military has no role in determining the outcome of US elections.
Those critical hours on the afternoon of Jan 6, 2021, when senior political and military officials tacitly acknowledged with their actions that the chain of command had been broken at the top, reveal the great peril the nation still finds itself in from an increasingly erratic and borderline delusional commander in chief. It is reminiscent of the final days of another unstable president — Richard Nixon — when Defense Secretary James Schlesinger instructed uniformed military leaders to check with him before executing any direct orders from the commander in chief involving nuclear weapons.
“In light of the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters, enough doubt has now been cast on the competence and fitness of the president that I’m sure the question is being asked whether a ‘Schlesinger’-type check is necessary,” retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of US Central Command, told a foreign media outlet. “Before they execute any order that comes directly from President Trump in the next 13 days, the Joint Chiefs chairman and combatant commanders will first want legal verification that it is a lawful order, because they can disobey an illegal order.”
The decision by tech giants Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Google to silence US President Donald Trump and some of his followers has Israelis agitated.
Not because of what the move portends for far-right voices in Israel, though that is also an issue that Israel Today columnist Tsvi Sadan touched on in “Capitol Riots Strike Fears and Hopes in Israel.”
What’s got Israelis all across the political spectrum frustrated is the fact that the Jewish state has for years been pressing Facebook and Twitter to ban incitement to violence against Israel from the likes of Iran, Palestinian terror groups and others. But the response has always been that freedom of speech must be protected.
During a Knesset hearing in July 2020, a Twitter representative told Israeli lawmakers that tweets by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calling for the elimination of the “Zionist regime” were legitimate “comments on political issues of the day.”
So why is Trump different?
Comparatively speaking, even if Trump’s tweets can be directly linked to the Capitol riots and other acts of violence, he never explicitly called for such, unlike Iran and the Palestinian terror groups. Also by way of comparison, the acts of violence in the US have resulted in far fewer casualties than have the acts of violence against Israel incited by Khamenei, the Muslim Brotherhood and Fatah.
An Internet survey taken by Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv suggested that most Israelis see Twitter’s move as entirely political. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that cutting off Trump was an unjustified effort to silence a political voice. Forty-three percent said they support Twitter’s decision to block the president’s “problematic rhetoric.”
January 10, 2021
Senior advisor to the president, Jared Kushner, during a recent trip to Iraq. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Department of Defense/Flickr)
There have been plenty of stupid comments in the mainstream U.S. media since Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Many have been along the lines of, “We expect this kind of political violence in the Mideast, or in a banana republic — not in our own democratic America.”
Such remarks betray a limited understanding of both the historic U.S. role overseas, and of America’s own history. Let’s start with a somewhat obscure but still revealing example, from Israel/Palestine. In 2006, the George W. Bush administration pressed the Palestinian Authority to hold new elections in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Jerome Slater (whose new book, “Mythologies Without End”, is an indispensable guide to truths in the Mideast), explains that Bush’s advisers assumed that “the PA would easily win.” But Hamas actually came in first. So Bush applied strong economic pressure, and also “began planning for a coup to overturn the election results.” Bush asked conservative Arab states to supply arms to the PA’s armed branch, led by Mohammed Dahlan.
In June 2007, Dahlan’s forces attacked Hamas in Gaza, but were “soundly defeated,” and Hamas took full power in the beleaguered territory. Slater points out:
Since then, in Israel and the United States these events have been typically described as “a coup” when, in fact, it was a response to a real coup — the US and PA actions after the wrong side won the Gaza elections.
Gazans who can pause their daily struggle for survival long enough to follow the news from Washington may be permitted their skepticism at American claims that our country universally supports democracy and is appalled at coup attempts.
The prominent Democrat, Rahm Emanuel, also reacted to the storming of the U.S. Capitol with a particularly stupid comment that showed he must have gotten a good grade in Orientalism 101. Emanuel said on ABC News that increasing friction between Democrats and Republicans is “going to make the Sunnis and Shiites look like a very calm family gathering.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced Emanuel’s comments as “Islamophobic,” and noted: “In America and abroad, Sunni and Shia Muslims live as neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family members.” Emanuel was only echoing the Orientalist belief that a major source of conflict in the Mideast, especially in Iraq, is due to theological differences between two branches of Islam that split in the year 661. No genuine expert believes this. It is true that sectarian conflict is part of Iraq’s more recent history, but it worsened terribly during the violence and insecurity that followed the 2003 U.S. invasion. It wasn’t a 7th century dispute over the line of succession to the Prophet Muhammad that increased conflict, but America’s brutal intervention.
Certain U.S. mainstream media figures also trotted out the disparaging expression “banana republic” to deplore what happened at the Capitol. They showed more ignorance about America’s role. The United Fruit Company, starting in the late 19th century, created pliable governments in Central America that allowed them to seize vast tracts of land for their banana plantations. United Fruit was managed by New England bluebloods; John Foster Dulles, later Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, represented the company when he was a law partner at the prestigious firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. In the 1940s, people in Guatemala rebelled, and in two democratic elections voted for presidents who tried to curb United Fruit’s power. The result was the infamous 1954 CIA-sponsored coup, which led to decades of military dictatorships that culminated in the 1982 mass murder in indigenous Mayan communities.
“Banana republic” is certainly a shameful expression, but it reflects badly not on the people of Central America, but on the New England Brahmins who exploited them.
Nor were the mainstream commenters right to suggest that political violence is somehow hitherto unknown in America itself. After white Southerners lost the Civil War, they maintained their power in the region over the next century by organizing anti-black terrorist militias like the Ku Klux Klan, and lynching nearly 5000 people, the majority of them black. When the 1960s civil rights leader H. Rap Brown said, “Violence is as American as cherry pie,” he knew what he was talking about.
One talented young journalist has become a master at critiquing the warped view of the world that many Americans share. Karen Attiah, a Ghanaian-American, is the Global Opinions editor at the Washington Post. She regularly writes convincing satires of how the Western media would cover certain domestic news events if they had happened in the Global South. Her latest is another success. She quotes Joe Biden — “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol . . . do not represent who we are” — and then turns to a fictitious African expert for sage comment:
The phrase “this is not who we are” has become a very common refrain in American English, said Alphas Huxly, a Liberian professor of American studies and literature. “It is a knee-jerk response used when confronted with mounting evidence of the capacity for White violence and attacks on democracy.”
By AMIR VAHDAT , Associated Press
January 10, 2021 – 8:30 PM
TEHRAN, Iran — A South Korean diplomatic delegation arrived in Iran on Sunday to negotiate the release of a vessel and its crew seized by Iranian forces amid an escalating financial dispute between the countries, Iranian state-run media reported.
The South Korean-flagged tanker seizure by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in the crucial Strait of Hormuz came as Iranian officials have been pressing South Korea to release some $7 billion in assets tied up in the country’s banks due to American sanctions. It appeared the Islamic Republic was seeking to increase its leverage over Seoul ahead of South Korea’s pre-scheduled regional trip, which included a stop in Qatar.