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.
In a statement, it said Indian troops initiated “unprovoked” cease-fire violation in Dewa sector, killing a soldier along the Line of Control, a de facto border that divides the disputed Kashmir valley between India and Pakistan.
The nuclear-armed rivals hold Kashmir in parts but claim it in full. China also controls a part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over the Himalayan region since partition in 1947.
Meanwhile, three soldiers were killed in exchange of fire during an operation against militant hideouts in North Waziristan, a northwestern district near the Afghan border.
Two terrorists including an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] expert were also killed in the intelligence-based operation, the army said.
North Waziristan, once dubbed as the heartland of militancy, is one of seven former semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan where the army has conducted a series of operations since 2014 to eliminate the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Successive operations have pushed the TTP towards neighboring Afghanistan, and Islamabad claims the terrorist network has now set up bases across the border to attack Pakistani security forces and civilians.
In 2018, the tribal agencies were given the status of districts and merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
NEW YORK: Security Council members on Friday approved the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN’s special envoy to Libya.
It came as UN officials said significant progress has been made in Geneva this week during the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Kubis to be his envoy, a position that has been vacant since early March last year, when Ghassan Salameh resigned due to stress after less than three years in the job.
A number of replacements were suggested but members of the Security Council failed to agree on one. In December they overcame their differences and approved the choice of Bulgarian diplomat Nikolai Mladenov — only for him to surprise everyone by turning down the offer for “personal and family reasons.”
Kubis is currently the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon. He previously held similar positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described as significant progress during the first meeting of the LPDF’s advisory committee, which began in Geneva on Jan. 13 and concludes on Jan. 16.
“The mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection-mechanism proposals,” Dujarric said.
The formation of the advisory committee was announced on Jan. 3. Its 18 members, including women, young people and cultural figures, were chosen to reflect the country’s wide geographical and political diversity.
The secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, had indicated that the main task for the committee would be to deliberate on the contentious issues that have plagued the selection of a unified executive authority. The aim is to develop solid recommendations the LPDF can consider in line with the political roadmap agreed by its 75 members during their first round of talks in Tunis last year.
This roadmap represents a rights-based process designed to culminate in democratic and inclusive national elections Dec. 24 this year. The date is also that of Libya’s 70th Independence Day. The elections will mark the end of the transitional phase for the country and chart a new way forward.
“This unwavering achievement, this date to return the sovereign decision to its rightful owners, is our top priority,” said Williams in her opening remarks at the advisory committee meeting in Geneva this week.
She also rejected claims that UNSMIL will have any say in the selection of the new executive authority. “This is a Libyan-Libyan decision,” Williams said, adding that the interim authority is intended to “shoulder the responsibility in a participatory manner and not on the basis of power-sharing, as some believed.”
She added: “We want a participatory formula where there is no victor, no vanquished; a formula for coexistence for Libyans of various origins for a specific period of time until we pass on the torch.
UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said the Geneva talks have already overcome some major hurdles. This builds on the political accomplishments since the Tunis meeting at which a consensus was reached on the political roadmap, the eligibility criteria for positions in the unified executive authority, and the authority’s most important prerogative: setting a date for the elections.
He also reported “very encouraging progress” in military matters since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in October by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the members of which include five senior officers selected by the Government of National Accord and five selected by the Libyan National Army.
“This includes the recent exchanges of detainees conducted under the JMC’s supervision, as part of wider confidence-building measures; the resumption of flights to all parts of Libya; the full resumption of oil production and export; as well as the proposed unification and restructuring of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, in addition to the ongoing serious talks on the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, which we hope will take place very soon,” said Alam.
He also hailed “promising developments” relating to the economy, including the recent unification of the exchange rate by the Central Bank of Libya, a step that requires the formation of a new authority for it to be implemented.
“The recent meeting between the ministries of finance was an important effort to unify the budget and allocate sufficient funding to improve services and rebuild Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure, particularly the electrical grid,” Alam said.
“All of these reforms are steps that will bring national institutions together to work in establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement.”
Williams added that without a unified executive authority, it would difficult to implement these steps.
China building ‘greatest expansion of a nuclear arsenal’ since Cold War, State Department warns
Tripled production may violate arms pact, says special presidential envoy for arms control
By Bill Gertz – The Washington Times – Thursday, January 14, 2021
China has rapidly expanded its nuclear and conventional missile forces over the past decade, nearly tripling its ballistic missile production capability and deploying a wide array of nuclear and conventional missile systems, according to an intelligence assessment released by the State Department.
The department also notified Congress on Thursday that it believes Beijing is close to violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by refusing to join the United States in nuclear arms reduction talks underway with Russia.
“As of the writing of this letter, China appears to not be in compliance with its Article VI obligations under the NPT and it will be essential that the next administration continue to apply the full range of diplomatic, economic and defensive measures to bring Communist China to the negotiating table,” said Marshall Billingslea, special presidential envoy for arms control.
The warning, contained in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted the status of New START arms control talks with Russia.
“In the case of China, we are witnessing the single greatest expansion of a nuclear arsenal since the dawn of the Cold War,” Mr. Billingslea stated in his Jan. 14 letter.
A chart based on intelligence data made public Thursday by the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance concluded that Chinese missile production capacity grew by 180% since 2010. The chart was first presented during a briefing for America’s NATO allies three weeks ago.
Additionally, the intelligence indicates that 80% of Chinese missiles were conventionally armed and just 20% were nuclear-tipped in 2010. By contrast, 40% of China’s current missile force today is nuclear-capable with the remaining 60% armed with conventional explosives. The expansion of missile forces accelerated under President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2012.
Missile production increased by 30% from 2010 to 2015 and accelerated exponentially from 2015 to 2020. The growth rate in 2020 was 180% higher than it was a decade earlier.
“It is important for the American people and the international community to better understand the size and scope of the Chinese missile force, its rapid expansion, and the need to take steps to mitigate the danger to regional and global stability,” said Mr. Billingslea, who is also acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Chinese officials have long resisted U.S. pressure to join arms control talks. They argued that Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is for self-defense and is dwarfed by the missile stocks of Washington and Moscow.
“Given the huge gap between the nuclear arsenals of China and those of the U.S. and the Russian Federation, it is unfair, unreasonable and infeasible to expect China to join in any trilateral arms control negotiation …,” Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told the U.N. General Assembly in October. “The U.S. intention is to find an excuse to shirk its own special and primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament and seek a pretext to free its hands and gain absolute military supremacy.”
Missiles of concern
The missiles of greatest concern to the United States are China’s “carrier-killer” DF-21 and DF-26 missiles. The unique missiles can be fired from long ranges with enough precision to attack a moving ship at sea.
China has called the DF-26 a “Guam killer” because of its ability to range the major U.S. military hub on the U.S. South Pacific island. The People’s Liberation Army carried out flight tests of four DF-21s and at least one DF-26 during large-scale military exercises in the South China Sea in August.
“The missiles impacted in the South China Sea between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands,” a Pentagon official said at the time.
What also worries American military planners is China’s new hypersonic DF-17 missile, a maneuverable glider that flies between the upper atmosphere and outer space at extremely high speeds.
The DF-17 is designed to penetrate increasingly sophisticated American missile defenses, such the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense that protects the U.S. from limited long-range attack.
The Pentagon stated in its annual report on the Chinese military that long-range missiles under development “will significantly improve its nuclear-capable missile forces and will require increased nuclear warhead production” for multiwarhead missiles like the DF-41, which is being deployed on road and rail mobile launchers.
In addition to stepped-up production, China last year tested 250 missiles, more than were carried out in 2019, when Beijing was credited with more missile tests than all other nations combined.
Flight tests reached into the hundreds despite the pandemic, which limited the U.S. military’s ability to conduct missile testing.
Additionally, China is ramping up production of ballistic missile submarines that the Pentagon said provide Beijing with a significant capability to strike the American homeland with nuclear missiles.
“We’re seeing a China that is rapidly accelerating its nuclear-tipped missile force, both long-range, submarine-launched and short- and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles,” Mr. Billingslea told The Washington Times. “This comes as we already highlighted the massive increase in China’s nuclear weapons production sites.”
The Chinese missile buildup is being highlighted as the United States works to catch up to China’s large scale deployment of intermediate-range missiles. For decades, China built 18 types of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, those with ranges of 1,864 to 3,418 miles. The United States and Russia were prohibited by treaty from building similar missiles.
China now has an estimated 1,200 midrange missiles that are part of a missile force estimated to be 2,000 total ballistic missiles and hundreds of ground-hugging cruise missiles.
The Trump administration quit the Intermediate-Range Missile Treaty in 2019 after it said Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that violated the 1987 accord.
The Trump administration has moved to support the Army and the Marine Corps in fielding ground-launched capabilities and is in discussions with Asian and NATO allies on how to best deter Chinese and Russian aggression, Mr. Billingslea told The Washington Times.
In November, the State Department released four previously classified briefing slides revealing a rapid expansion of Chinese plutonium and uranium production plants, highlighting what the department called a secretive crash program to build up its nuclear arsenal.
Earlier details were released on China’s nuclear testing site at Lop Nur in western China. The site recently began round-the-clock operations, an indication that nuclear testing work has been stepped up.
On the question of China’s NPT noncompliance, Mr. Billingslea said, the Senate notification “relates to China’s refusal to negotiate in good faith with the United States.” China signed the treaty in 1992.
Article 6 of the treaty states that signatories must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
President Trump directed that any extension of the New START treaty with Russia include China, which has been engaged in the large-scale buildup of nuclear forces and missile delivery systems unconstrained by arms control treaties. The New START treaty is set to expire Feb. 5 and will be one of the first national security decisions the Biden administration will face.
Mr. Billingslea, in his letter to the Senate, stated that progress had been made in a short treaty extension. Under the proposed deal, Russian would agree to place a cap on its nuclear warhead arsenal in exchange for a one-year extension of New START.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Russia has concluded that it can get a better deal from the next administration,” Mr. Billingslea said in his letter.
The Pentagon report on the Chinese military stated that China is adding two more missile submarines to its fleet of four Jin-class missile submarines. Additional attack submarines also are being built.
The Navy disclosed Monday on Twitter that the USS Ohio, a nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine, recently sailed into Apra Harbor, Guam.
The disclosure of the Ohio’s deployment is unusual as missile submarine deployments are usually kept secret.
The strategic submarine activity near Guam comes amid heightened tensions with China over Taiwan and the transition of presidential administrations next week.
Leader of Iraq’s Sadrist Movement, Muqtada Al-Sadr [Twitter]
January 14, 2021 at 10:40 am
Influential Shia Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has called for Iraq to find an alternative to Iranian gas used to operate electricity plants after imports were halted due to the debt crisis, Anadolu reported yesterday.
On 27 December, Iran reduced gas exports to Iraq by 40 per cent due to the accumulated debts which Iraq has not settled.
Months earlier, in June, Iraq announced it had paid $400 million towards its $5 billion debts to Iran.
Iraq produces 19,000 Megawatt of electricity, while it needs, according to officials, over 30,000. The country suffers from severe shortages of electricity due to the continuous sieges and wars.
Al-Sadr went on to stress the need to end what he described as the presence of “occupation forces” in Iraq and prevent external interference because it weakens the state.
CNN NewsourceJanuary 13, 2021
Here’s a look at Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Since 2003, worldwide concern over Iran’s nuclear program has increased as Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spar over investigation and details of Iran’s program. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly denied Iran is building a bomb and says weapons of mass destruction are forbidden under Islam.
1957 – The United States signs a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran.
1958 – Iran joins the IAEA.
1967 – The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which includes a small reactor supplied by the United States, opens.
1968 – Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mid-1970s – With US backing, Iran begins developing a nuclear power program.
1979 – Iran’s Islamic revolution ends Western involvement in the country’s nuclear program.
December 1984 – With the aid of China, Iran opens a nuclear research center in Isfahan.
February 23, 1998 – The United States announces concerns that Iran’s nuclear energy program could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.
March 14, 2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organizations that provide aid to Iran’s nuclear program.
February 21, 2003 – IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran to survey its nuclear facilities and to encourage Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol. ElBaradei says he must accept Iran’s statement that its nuclear program is for producing power and not weapons, despite claims of the United States to the contrary.
June 19, 2003 – The IAEA issues a report saying that Iran appeared to be in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that it needed to be more open about its activities.
August 2003 – The IAEA announces that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims the amounts are contamination from equipment bought from other countries. Iran agrees to sign a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty that allows for unannounced visits to their nuclear facilities and signs it on December 18, 2003.
October 2003 – The Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany visit Tehran, and all parties agree upon measures Iran will take to settle all outstanding issues with the IAEA. Under obligation to the IAEA, Iran releases a dossier on its nuclear activities. However, the report does not contain information on where Iran acquired components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a fact the IAEA considers important in determining whether the uranium is to be enriched for weapons.
November 2003 – Iran agrees to halt uranium enrichment as a confidence building measure and accepts IAEA verification of suspension.
December 2003 – Iran signs the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the IAEA voluntarily agreeing to broader inspections of its nuclear facilities.
February 2004 – A.Q. Khan, “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, admits to having provided Iran and other countries with uranium-enrichment equipment.
June 1, 2004 – The IAEA states they have found traces of uranium that exceed the amount used for general energy production. Iran admits that it is importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, but is using the parts to generate electricity.
July 31, 2004 – Iran states that it has resumed production on centrifuge parts used for enriching uranium, but not enrichment activities.
August 8, 2005 – Iran restarts uranium conversion, a step on the way to enrichment, at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejects a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.
August 9, 2005 – Iran removes the IAEA seals from its Isfahan nuclear processing facility, opening the uranium conversion plant for full operation. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky states that the plant “is fully monitored by the IAEA” and “is not a uranium enrichment plant.”
September 11, 2005 – Iran’s new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, says the country won’t suspend activities at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility and it plans to seek bids for the construction of two more nuclear plants.
January 10, 2006 – Iran resumes research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, arguing that doing so is within the terms of an agreement with the IAEA.
January 12, 2006 – Foreign ministers of the EU3 (Great Britain, France, Germany) recommend Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear program.
January 13, 2006 – Mottaki states that if Iran is referred, its government under law will be forced to stop some of its cooperation with the IAEA, including random inspections.
February 4, 2006 – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad orders Iran to end its cooperation with the IAEA.
April 11, 2006 – Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president, states that Iran has increased the number of functioning centrifuges in its nuclear facilities in Natanz and has produced enriched uranium from them.
August 31, 2006 – The IAEA issues a report on Iran saying the Islamic republic “has not suspended its enrichment activities” despite this day’s deadline to do so. Iran can possibly face economic sanctions.
December 23, 2006 – The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program.
February 22, 2007 – The IAEA issues a statement saying that Iran has not complied with the UN Security Council’s call for a freeze of all nuclear activity. Instead, Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program.
March 24, 2007 – The United Nations adopts Resolution 1747 which toughens sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.
May 23, 2007 – The IAEA delivers its report to the United Nations on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report states that not only has Iran failed to end its uranium enrichment program but has in fact expanded its activity.
June 21, 2007 – Iran’s Interior Minister Mostapha PourMohamedi claims, “Now we have 3,000 centrifuges and have in our warehouses 100 kilograms of enriched uranium.” …”We also have more than 150 tons of raw materials for producing uranium gas.”
December 2007 – A US intelligence report finds that Iran abandoned a nuclear weapons program in 2003.
February 20, 2009 – The Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iranian scientists have reached “nuclear weapons breakout capability.” The report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon. An official at the IAEA cautions about drawing such conclusions. The IAEA says Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to become weapons-grade material.
February 25, 2009 – Iran runs tests at its Bushehr nuclear power plant using “dummy” fuel rods loaded with lead in place of enriched uranium to simulate nuclear fuel. A news release distributed to reporters at the scene states the test measured the “pressure, temperature and flow rate” of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels. Officials say the next test will use enriched uranium, but it’s not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational.
September 21, 2009 – In a letter to the IAEA, Iran reveals the existence of a second nuclear facility. It is located underground at a military base, near the city of Qom.
October 25, 2009 – IAEA inspectors make their first visit to Iran’s newly disclosed nuclear facility near Qom.
February 18, 2010 – In a statement, the IAEA reports that it believes Iran may be working in secret to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.
August 21, 2010 – Iran begins fueling its first nuclear energy plant, in the city of Bushehr.
December 5, 2010 – Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic chief and acting foreign minister, announces that Iran’s nuclear program is self-sufficient and that Iran has begun producing yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium.
January 8, 2011 – Salehi reports that Iran can now create its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.
September 4, 2011 – Iran announces that its Bushehr nuclear power plant joined the electric grid September 3, making it the first Middle Eastern country to produce commercial electricity from atomic reactors.
September 5, 2011 – In response to Iran’s nuclear chief stating that Iran will give the IAEA “full supervision” of its nuclear program for five years if UN sanctions are lifted, the European Union says that Iran must first comply with international obligations.
November 8, 2011 – The IAEA releases a report saying that it has “serious concerns” and “credible” information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
January 9, 2012 – The IAEA confirms that uranium enrichment has begun at the Fordo nuclear facility in the Qom province in northern Iran.
January 23, 2012 – The European Union announces it will ban the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products.
January 29, 2012 – A six-member delegation from the IAEA arrives in Tehran for a three-day visit, shortly after the EU imposes new sanctions aimed at cutting off funding to the nuclear program.
January 31, 2012 – In Senate testimony James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says there’s no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. CIA Director David Petraeus agrees.
February 15, 2012 – Iran loads the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran research reactor.
February 21, 2012 – After two days of talks in Iran about the country’s nuclear program, the IAEA expresses disappointment that no progress was made and that their request to visit the Parchin military base was denied.
March 28, 2012 – Discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear future stall.
April 14, 2012 – Talks resume between Iran and six world powers over Iranian nuclear ambitions in Istanbul, Turkey.
May 25, 2012 – An IAEA report finds that environmental samples taken at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom have enrichment levels of up to 27%, higher than the previous level of 20%.
June 18-19, 2012 – A meeting is held between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany) in Moscow. No agreement is reached.
June 28, 2012 – Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili writes to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warning world powers to avoid “unconstructive measures” such as the oil embargo that’s about to go into effect and that was agreed upon by the EU in January.
July 1, 2012 – A full embargo of Iranian oil from the EU takes effect.
August 30, 2012 – A UN report finds that Iran has stepped up its production of high-grade enriched uranium and has re-landscaped Parchin, one of its military bases, in an apparent effort to hamper a UN inquiry into the country’s nuclear program.
September 24, 2013 – During a speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says “Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.”
October 16, 2013 – The latest discussions between Iran and the six world powers center on a proposal put forth by Iran to recognize the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy pursuits. The meeting is described as “substantive and forward-looking.”
November 24, 2013 – Six world powers and Iran reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. The deal calls on Iran to limit its nuclear activities in return for lighter sanctions.
January 12, 2014 – It is announced that Iran will begin eliminating some of its uranium stockpile on January 20.
January 20, 2014 – Iran’s nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi tells state-run news agency IRNA that Iran has started suspending high levels of uranium enrichment.
January 20, 2014 – The European Union announces that it has suspended certain sanctions against Iran for six months.
February 20, 2014 – Following talks in Vienna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announce that a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program has been reached.
November 24, 2014 – The deadline for a final nuclear agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council’s P5+1 countries has been set for July 1, 2015.
April 2, 2015 – Negotiators from Iran, the United States, China, Germany, France, Britain and Russia reach a framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, which includes reducing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%. The deadline for the complete agreement is July 1.
April 9, 2015 – Rouhani announces that Iran will only sign a final nuclear agreement if economic sanctions are lifted on the first day of implementation.
July 14, 2015 – A deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility.
July 20, 2015 – The UN Security Council endorses the nuclear deal.
January 16, 2016 – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says Iran has completed all the necessary steps agreed under the nuclear deal, and that all participants can begin implementing the JCPOA.
March 8-9, 2016 – Iran test-fires two Qadr ballistic missiles during a large-scale military drill, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV. US officials say that the tests do not violate the JCPOA but are very likely in breach of a UN resolution calling on Iran not to undertake ballistic missile activity.
January 29, 2017 – Iran launches a medium-range ballistic missile, its first missile test since Donald Trump became US president, but the test fails, according to information given to CNN by a US defense official. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn says the United States has put “Iran on notice.”
February 3, 2017 – In reaction to the January 29 missile test, the US Treasury Department says it is applying sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. Flynn says the tests were in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that bars Iran from taking steps on a ballistic missile program capable of launching nuclear weapons.
September 20, 2017 – Rouhani says, “It will be a great pity if this agreement were destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” in a clear reference to Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 19th, where he offered scathing criticism of both Iran and the 2015 international agreement.
October 13, 2017 – Trump decertifies Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, declaring that the Obama-era pact was not in US interests and unveiling a tough new policy toward the Islamic Republic. The move stops short of completely scrapping the agreement, instead kicking it to Congress, who then has 60 days to determine a path forward. Congress allows the 60-day deadline to pass without action.
January 12, 2018 – Trump agrees to waive key nuclear-related sanctions against Iran as part of the 2015 deal, but delivers a stark ultimatum to European allies: “Fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.” Trump couples his waiver announcement with new sanctions on 14 Iranian individuals and entities that have committed human rights abuses or supported Iran’s ballistic missile programs, which are outside the scope of the nuclear deal. The most prominent of the targets in the latest sanctions is Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran’s judicial system.
May 8, 2018 – Trump announces that the United States will withdraw from the JCPOA and will be imposing “the highest level of economic sanction” against Iran. In Tehran, Rouhani says Iran will take a few weeks to decide how to respond to the US withdrawal, but Rouhani says he had ordered the country’s “atomic industry organization” to be prepared to “start our industrial enrichment without limitations.”
May 21, 2018 – Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration is “open to new steps” with Iran, including a diplomatic relationship. Part of 12 preconditions: Iran must acknowledge past military dimensions of its nuclear program and expand access given to nuclear inspectors. The United States will then be willing to end sanctions, re-establish commercial relationships and allow Iran to have advanced technology.
March 22, 2019 – The US State and Treasury departments sanction 14 individuals and 17 entities linked to SPND, Iran’s organization for defense, innovation and research. In announcing the sanctions, senior administration officials suggest repeatedly that the existence of SPND and its subordinate organizations could provide cover for them to continue missile-related activity.
May 8, 2019 – Rouhani announces a partial withdrawal from the JCPOA.
May 16, 2019 – A US official with knowledge of the situation tells CNN that there are multiple images of commercial Iranian ships carrying missiles and other munitions.
June 17, 2019 – Iran has increased its low-enriched uranium production and in 10 days will pass the 300 kilogram limit it is allowed to stockpile under the nuclear deal, according to Kamalvandi.
July 7, 2019 – At the end of a 60-day ultimatum which Iran gave to the JCPOA’s European signatories to ease sanctions, spokesman Ali Rabiei says Iran will enrich uranium past the agreed upon limit of 3.67% purity.
September 23, 2019 – In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Zarif outlines a proposal for an agreement that would augment the defunct nuclear deal. In return for lifting sanctions, Iran would be prepared to sign an additional protocol, allowing for more intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than that set out previously. Khamenei would also enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law, Zarif says.
September 26, 2019 – Rouhani confirms a report by Reuters that Iran is using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium. He says Iran has no plans to increase the enrichment level and will resume talks with the United States if sanctions are lifted.
November 5, 2019 – Rouhani announces Iran will begin injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges that had been spinning empty at its Fordow plant. The move marks a break from the terms of the accord, which limited Iran to operating around 5,000 older-model centrifuges.
November 8, 2019 – In a statement following a November 7 special meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Pompeo expresses concern about the temporary detention of an IAEA inspector and “potential undeclared nuclear materials” in Iran.
December 4, 2019 – The United Nations releases a letter authored by ambassadors from France, Germany and the United Kingdom who allege that Iran has developed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The letter lists four examples and cites footage of a test flight of a new Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which has a booster “technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”
January 5, 2020 – After a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran announces that it will no longer limit itself to restrictions contained in the JCPOA. In a statement, Iran indicates it “will return to JCPOA limits once all sanctions are removed from the country.”
March 3, 2020 – In a report to member states, and obtained by CNN, the IAEA says that Tehran’s stockpiles of low enriched uranium now far exceed 300 kilograms, the limit set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The report notes that Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of low enriched uranium since November 2019, indicating a significant jump in production.
November 27, 2020 – According to Iran’s semi-official news agency, ISNA, Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is killed in an apparent assassination. Fakhrizadeh was head of the research center of new technology in the Revolutionary Guards, and was a leading figure in Iran’s nuclear program.
December 2, 2020 – Iran’s parliament passes 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 Fakhrizadeh.
January 4, 2021 – Iran announces that it had resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity, far beyond the limits laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal, in a move likely to further escalate tensions with the United States.
News / Top Stories
Israeli tanks shell nearby Hamas position in response to attacks; exchange comes amid relative lull in violence from the Strip
By Judah Ari Gross 13 Jan 2021, 1:51 pm
Gunshots were fired at Israeli military bulldozers operating on the southern Gaza border in two separate attacks on Wednesday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces said.
No Israeli troops were injured. At least one vehicle was lightly damaged, the military said.
In response to the two attacks, Israeli tanks shelled empty Hamas positions near the border. Palestinian media published photos of the demolished posts, which were principally constructed of tin sheets.
وكالة شهاب للأنباء
#صور آثار قصف قوات الاحتلال نقطة للضبط الميداني شرق خانيونس جنوب قطاع غزة.
5:42 AM · Jan 13, 2021
See وكالة شهاب للأنباء’s other Tweets
Residents of southern Israel, as well as Palestinian media outlets, reported that Israeli fighter jets were heard overhead following the second exchange.
The first shooting attack was reported shortly after noon Wednesday. Just over an hour later, the military said a second round of shots were fired at another engineering vehicle on the border.
Photographs of the bulldozer that was hit in the first shooting, which were quickly shared on social media, showed damage caused to the vehicle’s bulletproof windshields.
المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام
صور| آثار استهداف جرافات الاحتلال بإطلاق نار خلال توغلها شرق خانيونس جنوب قطاع غزة ، قبل قليل.
3:52 AM · Jan 13, 2021
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Following the first attack, an IDF tank destroyed one Hamas observation post along the border, the military said. Two more were targeted following the second attack, according to the IDF.
The military said it was not immediately clear if a bulldozer was hit in the second attack.
The IDF said the vehicles had been working near the border when the gunshots were heard.
The bulldozers had been clearing land in the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which lies on the Gaza side of the border, near the city of Khan Younis.
Palestinian media reported that the Israeli military on Wednesday had also dropped fliers in Arabic, warning Gazan farmers to keep their crops away from the fence.
Wednesday’s attack came amid a relative lull in violence from the Gaza Strip. The day before, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk announced that Qatar had agreed to continue providing humanitarian aid to the enclave for another year.