New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)


How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnelsair conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

The Rising Nuclear Horns: Daniel 7

When Allies Go Nuclear

How to Prevent the Next Proliferation Threat

By February 12, 2021

Test launching a Trident II missile, California, March 2018

Ronald Gutridge / REUTERS.

The year is 2030. Seismic monitors have just detected an unforeseen underground atomic explosion, signaling that yet another country has joined the growing club of nuclear-armed states. There are now 20 such countries, more than double the number in 2021. To the surprise of many, the proliferation has come not from rogue states bent on committing nuclear blackmail but from a group of countries usually seen as cautious and rule abiding: U.S. allies. Even though they had forsworn acquiring nuclear capabilities decades earlier when they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), these allies changed their minds and withdrew from the agreement, a move that triggered yet more defections as nations across the world raced to acquire the bomb. And so the number of nuclear decision-makers multiplied, raising the odds of a terrifying possibility: that one of these powerful weapons might go off.

Far-fetched? Perhaps, but this scenario is more plausible now than many think. Although the threat of nuclear proliferation in recent decades has been concentrated in the Middle East and Asia, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s, Washington worried about its Asian and European allies going nuclear. U.S. intelligence officials projected that by the mid-1970s, there could be 10 to 15 nuclear powers in the world, including Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. The NPT was designed to prevent this possibility, and since it was signed, in 1968, only four countries (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) have acquired and retained operational nuclear forces. This success was due in large part to the United States’ concerted efforts to extend its nuclear umbrella to allied territory. Reassured that they would be protected from nuclear attack and intimidation, U.S. allies in Asia and Europe decided not to develop their own nuclear capabilities.

But now they may be rethinking that decision. In both Asia and Europe, U.S. allies face a growing military threat from nuclear-armed powers, as China and Russia each become more aggressive and modernize their nuclear forces. And in the United States, allies see a government that has walked away from long-standing arms control agreements and a population that no longer seems committed to global engagement. All of this has left U.S. allies wondering whether they can still rely on Washington for their defense and security—or whether it might be time to think about getting the bomb.

In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden pledged, “We will repair our alliances.” But after the Trump administration did so much to sow mistrust, it will take more than words to reassure allies of the United States’ commitments and erase any thoughts of joining the nuclear club. It will also take active steps to bolster confidence in the United States’ nuclear guarantee, reinvigorated defense cooperation with allies, and a complete rethinking of arms control. This is a big agenda. But it is doable.


Most of the discussions in allied capitals about the U.S. nuclear umbrella have played out beyond public view, but signs of disquiet are beginning to emerge. In Germany, doubts about the United States’ reliability have arisen within official circles, and a growing chorus of voices outside government has suggested possible alternatives to the U.S. nuclear guarantee. Some have proposed relying instead on a European nuclear umbrella composed of some combination of French and British capabilities, perhaps supported financially by Germany and other nonnuclear European countries. France, for its part, has invited fellow European states to engage in a “strategic dialogue” on its nuclear deterrent and possibly participate in nuclear exercises.

In Poland, there have been calls to bolster Europe’s nuclear deterrence, with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the country’s governing party, welcoming the idea of the EU as a nuclear power with an arsenal equal to that of Russia’s. Turkey, too, has shown an interest in the bomb, with its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggesting that he is open to the possibility of acquiring it. “Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But we can’t have them,” he said. “This I cannot accept.”

In both Asia and Europe, U.S. allies face a growing military threat from nuclear-armed powers.

Similar sentiments are emerging in Asia. Japan, the only country in history to have suffered a nuclear attack, is concerned about the continued reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, especially as its nuclear-armed neighbors become more aggressive. Doubts about U.S. reliability are nothing new in Japan: in the 1970s, the country delayed ratifying the NPT for more than five years, worried that the treaty would enshrine its nuclear inferiority and that the U.S. umbrella might prove insufficient to ensure Japan’s security. Today, such sentiment has been compounded by China’s newfound assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear advances. And although Japanese officials are not openly raising the possibility that their country will acquire a nuclear arsenal of its own, Japan continues to maintain the material and know-how to do so rapidly should it decide to.

South Korea has also been questioning its lack of a nuclear arsenal. North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, and in the years since, it has built dozens of weapons and hundreds of missiles, some of which could reach the continental United States. Adding to South Korea’s feelings of insecurity, in 2019, the Trump administration canceled joint military exercises with the country and demanded that it quintuple the amount it pays for the privilege of keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula. Although few South Koreans have advocated a national nuclear deterrent, more and more of them want greater reassurance from the United States. Many have called for Washington to reintroduce the tactical nuclear weapons—short-range and low-yield—that it withdrew after the Cold War.

In Australia, finally, growing concern about China has led to what the Australian government has called “the most consequential strategic realignment” of its defense policy since World War II: a clear focus on defending its national security in an Indo-Pacific region marked by great-power competition and a rising chance of conflict. Although Australia is not yet rethinking its nuclear abstinence, it has decided to acquire long-range strike capabilities to enhance the credibility of its defense and deterrence posture. If doubts about U.S. reliability were to prove more than a temporary phenomenon, the same logic could lead to a renewed debate about Australia’s nonnuclear policy.


Reassuring allies starts with a return to fundamentals: the Biden administration must unequivocally reaffirm the cornerstones of U.S. security commitments. That means affirming the United States’ treaty commitments to collective defense, reversing the Trump administration’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Germany and elsewhere, and negotiating long-term cost-sharing arrangements with the countries that host U.S. troops in Asia and Europe.

To erase doubts about the U.S. umbrella, the Biden administration should raise the salience of nuclear issues with allies. It should bring NATO and Asian allies into the nuclear planning process from the outset, closely consulting them as the administration conducts its next Nuclear Posture Review. The administration should plan more exercises with U.S. allies that include a nuclear dimension and regularly involve allied political leaders in them. Finally, it should seek to bolster the defense and deterrence capabilities of its alliances in Asia and Europe. That may entail increasing the number of U.S. troops in both regions or, at the very least, pledging to maintain their current levels. It may also entail deploying additional missile defense capabilities and reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture in both regions to ensure that existing capabilities are enough to maintain the credibility of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Whatever the decisions, they should be taken only in close consultation with, and at the invitation of, U.S. allies.

Allies will have to do their part. Europe, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, must “take on more responsibility, both in military and diplomatic terms.” But it should do so by building up real military capacity—improved warfighting capabilities, enhanced readiness—not just more procedures or headquarters. Europe will also need to build up the nuclear dimension of its defense efforts. European allies that currently participate in NATO nuclear missions by deploying aircraft and hosting U.S. weapons should retain and modernize these forces.

Western Europe’s two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, should not only deepen their long-standing nuclear cooperation but also offer to extend their nuclear deterrents to their European allies. The result would be a European nuclear umbrella, something that would complement rather than replace the U.S. nuclear guarantee yet still strengthen NATO and bolster European security. Indeed, that is the point of greater European capabilities, and the United States should make clear that it welcomes any efforts to strengthen defense cooperation within Europe. The region’s ability to act autonomously poses no threat to the United States or NATO; to the contrary, it makes Europe a stronger military partner.

Arms control must move beyond the U.S.-Russian framework that has dominated for decades.

Restoring confidence among U.S. allies in Asia will be trickier, because the region lacks its own version of NATO and relies instead on bilateral security arrangements. To compensate, Washington should encourage greater cooperation among its Asian allies and reestablish trilateral security cooperation with Japan and South Korea, which was halted in recent years because of disputes between the two Asian powers. Washington should also establish an Asian equivalent to NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, a body that would bring Australia, Japan, and South Korea into the U.S. nuclear planning process and offer them a platform for discussing regional deterrence. Finally, the United States and the three other countries in the Asia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Australia, India, and Japan) may need to consider eventually including South Korea in the group if Seoul expresses interest in joining.

The biggest nuclear unknown in the coming decade concerns China’s arsenal, which, although shrouded in secrecy, is believed to be undergoing rapid modernization and could double in size within a few years. The United States and its allies have a powerful incentive to penetrate China’s nuclear opacity and get greater insight into its capabilities. Arms control agreements can play a role in this effort, providing greater transparency about capabilities, an exchange of views on intentions, and stability in the overall nuclear relationship.

Indeed, the United States needs to overhaul its approach to arms control globally. Biden took a wise first step when he agreed to extend the New START treaty with Russia, which covers only long-range strategic weapons; the next step should be a new bilateral agreement that would seek to cover all U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads, including those in storage, as well as novel nuclear delivery systems, such as hypersonic weapons.

That said, arms control must move beyond the U.S.-Russian framework that has dominated for decades. A logical grouping for expanded discussions would be the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These five countries should start a dialogue that addresses nuclear issues, and over time, they could negotiate measures that would pull back the curtain on their arsenals, convince one another of the defensive nature of those arsenals, and open up the possibility of mutual limitations. As a first step, the United States and Russia could invite the other three members to observe the inspections that Washington and Moscow conduct as part of their existing arms control obligations, thus demonstrating the value of transparency without revealing critical secrets about weapons designs. Subsequently, all five countries could agree to exchange information about their nuclear capabilities, notify each other of forthcoming missile and other tests, and take other steps to enhance transparency. Eventually, each country could commit to limiting its nuclear forces to the lowest possible level.


For more than 50 years, the United States’ alliances have helped stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But faced with worsening regional threats and growing uncertainty about U.S. staying power, U.S. allies are beginning to reassess their security arrangements—including their nuclear dimensions.

Biden has made rebuilding U.S. alliances a fundamental priority from the moment he took office. The president was right to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO in a call with the alliance’s secretary-general and key European allies, and he was right to do the same regarding Australia, Japan, and South Korea in calls to those countries’ leaders.

Now, however, comes the hard work of transforming relationships in more fundamental ways—bolstering deterrence and defense capabilities all around, bringing Asian and European allies into the U.S. nuclear planning process, and broadening arms control efforts beyond Russia. This is hardly an impossible agenda, but it could hardly be more urgent. At stake is nothing less than a decades-long success: preventing the spread of the world’s deadliest weapons.

The Russian Horns New Nukes: Daniel 7

DOOMSDAY BOOM Russia to carry out first test of its ‘doomsday’ nuke drone that could flatten US with MEGAQUAKES

Britta Zeltmann

17:36, 12 Feb 2021Updated: 17:38, 12 Feb 2021

RUSSIA is set to carry out the first test of its ‘doomsday’ nuke drone – said to be capable of destroying America with a nuclear earthquake.

Preparations to test the underwater ‘Poseidon’ drone aboard a nuclear-powered submarine named Belgorod are already underway, according to Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Pictured is the poseidon drone’s propulsion systemCredit: Russian Defence Ministry

It is understood that the Russian Navy is due to secure about 30 Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicles by 2027.

They can be fitted with both conventional and nuclear weapons, enabling them to hit a wide range of targets – and they’ve already been successfully tested from a diesel-driven sub, Sputnik reports.


Putin’s regime first leaked information about the nuclear drone – then called the “Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6” – in late-2015.

It can travel up to speeds of 85km/h, has an intercontinental range up to 10,000km and carries a 100-megaton warhead, according to media in Russia.

Last year, Russian Navy Captain Konstantin Sivkov said that a Poseidon attack could cause a tectonic break up and totally destroy the North American subcontinent, the Jamestown Foundation via reported.

City-destroying earthquakes are caused when the planet’s tectonic plates grind together along fault lines.

And Captain Sivkov said the US was “terrified” after Washington called on Moscow to stop the development of the doomsday weapon.

The nuclear drone can travel up to speeds of 85km/hCredit: Russian Defence Ministry

It will be carried by the Belgorod nuclear-powered submarine, pictured during a launching ceremony in 2019Credit: Getty – Contributor

In the 2015 leak, Poseidon was said to have been developed to “destroy important economic coastal regions of the enemy and cause long-lasting massive radioactive contamination”.

The Belgorod sub can carry up to six of the nuclear drones which can obliterate coastal cities by detonating close to the shoreline creating huge radioactive tsunamis, according to Russian media.

In January last year, Fox News reported that a former senior adviser to US President Donald Trump admitted there are “genuine concerns” about the Poseidon.

Former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton said a blast would create a “wave – and a highly irradiated one” but because the water would absorb a lot of the energy the wave would be less damaging than getting hit by the bomb itself.

Speaking in St Petersburg on July 26, Putin boasted about the Poseidon and Russia’s new hypersonic land nuke missile.

He said: “The deployment of advanced technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will increase naval combat capabilities”.

In 2018, the Russian President spoke glowingly about the terrifying Poseidon weapon, calling it “really fantastic.”

He said: “They are quiet, highly manoeuvrable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit.

“There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”

Occupation troops open fire at Gaza farmers outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Occupation troops open fire at Gaza farmers, force them back

GAZA, Sunday, February 14, 2021 (WAFA) – Israeli occupation forces stationed on the border with the Gaza Strip today opened fire at Palestinian farmers working in their lands near the border, forcing them to leave the area, reported WAFA correspondent.

He said that the occupation soldiers, stationed at the military watchtowers overlooking the border area east of Gaza City, fired several rounds of live bullets and teargas at the farmers, forcing them to leave the area to avoid being shot.

No injuries were reported.

Israel does not allow Palestinians to reach their lands along the Gaza border with Israel and often infiltrate the borders to either destroy the land and level it or to build dirt mounds causing serious damage to fertile agricultural land.

The Israeli occupation army regularly open fire at people near the border fence with Gaza, including farmers attending to their land, in order to keep them as far from the border as possible.


Simmering Kashmir: Catalyst for the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Simmering Kashmir: A record of world’s longest running conflict in nutshell

book review

Taniya ShahFebruary 15, 2021

ISLAMABAD-Throughout the history, stronger states have sought to establish an authority by dominating weaker nations.

The British Imperial ambitions were unique, as they triggered two devastating conflicts of the present times, Palestine and Kashmir.

The question of why India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed neighbours, despite fighting three wars remain in a standoff has spawned a vast literature but very few provide a thorough context of the issue in common man’s language.

Author Jamal Qaiser and Sadaf Taimur’s Simmering Kashmir is one of the rare books which skilfully portray past, present and future of one of the oldest unresolved international conflicts in a smart handbook of 100 pages.

Without clichés, or jargons, the book is a candid record of Kashmir related developments that took place during the last few centuries. 

Simmering Kashmir, not only gives an understanding of the geographical importance of the area, but also argues the role of major players and the international community. 

It discusses the severe political and social oppression which forced Kashmiris to pick up arms and how India’s furious reaction to a just demand turned into an immense humanitarian crisis.

In 2019, India abolished special status of Kashmir by revoking almost all of Article 370, which allowed certain amount of autonomy to the state. Kashmir had its own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make its own legislation.

The new laws allowed Indian citizens to settle and buy land in the disputed territory.

For most of the average readers, it is difficult to understand the new Indian legislation and what it meant for millions of Muslim Kashmiris.

Simmering Kashmir gives the readers a historical perspective by taking them back to the 16th century, when European powers competed with one another to control the rest of the world. 

It gives an insight of the internal and external circumstances under which East India Company came into being and started its overseas operations. 

The book also mentions British economic interests in India and how they manipulated local economy and industry for their vested interests.

After describing the overall Indian political and social environment systematically, the authors narrow down to Kashmir. 

From page 55 onwards, the book documents everything from the geographical significance to the major political and social events, which took place before and after 1947. It tells us about continuous standoff between Pakistan and India and the role United Nations played in resolving the conflict.

Simmering Kashmir discusses how both the countries are using their media as a proxy and how reporting has become an extension of India Pakistan war over Kashmir.

After presenting the whole picture of the conflict in a neutral tone, the authors offer a solution to the problem in the same unbiased way.

To resolve one of the oldest conflicts, the authors suggest a three tier approach. They believe if Pakistan and India fail to reach an understanding, International Court of Justice may intervene and solve the matter without violating the bilateral agreement.

Apparently, the proposal is very pragmatic but one may argue that it is an oversimplified solution to a compound dilemma.

The worthy authors have mentioned the immense energies both the states are applying to justify their right over the disputed territory. 

More than a matter of pride, Kashmir is the only justification for the massive Indian and Pakistani armies. Would they allow their respective governments to reach any amicable solution and to slash their budgets, ending their monopoly and supremacy over the rule, it is a question which needs further discussion. 

Since both the countries have failed to resolve the dispute, the third option, of international arbitration, seems more convincing.

Although Simmering Kashmir is a compact flawless work but an average reader may find the term ‘Civilizing Missions’ confusing. 

Many scholars and historians have discussed how British used Christian missionaries, local religious and social movements, and freemasons for their advantage.

Professor Dr. Jessica Harland-Jacobs in her work discussed how British consolidated its empire through freemasonry, while J.N. Farquhar in his book “Modern Religious Movements in India” recorded Christian missionaries influence in state affairs and legislations.

It is more likely that the authors meant to point out the same nexus by the term civilising missions.

Indian massive media campaigns and diplomatic supremacy have misguided the international community about the Kashmir issue and has managed public sentiment in its favour. 

Simmering Kashmir is a remarkable attempt to present an unbiased and true picture to the international community.

It’s a must read for people who want to understand the whole Kashmir issue without going into too many details.

Pakistan’s Newest Nuclear Weapons: Daniel 8

Pakistan’s Surface-to-Surface Missiles: Strategic Intent with Conventional Potential

In February 2021, Pakistan conducted training launches of its Ghaznavi short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) and Babur 1A ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM).[1][2] The Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) had conducted the training launches to assess various operational and technical parameters for each missile.

The Hatf-III Ghaznavi SRBM offers a stated range of 290 km, while the Hatf-VII Babur 1A GLCM can reach a stated range of 450 km. According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the press arm of the Pakistani armed forces, the Ghaznavi and Babur 1A are capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads.

Though capable of conventional strikes, the primary mission (at least at the time of initial deployment) of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles and cruise missiles is nuclear deployment. The cruise missiles – i.e., the Babur-series as well as the Ra’ad-series – are particularly important because they can carry Pakistan’s miniature nuclear warheads (a key component of its ‘tactical nuclear weapon’ doctrine).

Limiting ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to strategic attacks also makes economic sense. These missiles are among Pakistan’s most expensive munitions. Moreover, Pakistan’s industrial limitations may constrain its ability to manufacture these missiles at a high-enough rate to support wide-scale conventional attack strategy. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will likely carry the bulk of such strikes through Mk80-series Range Extension Kit (REK)-equipped JF-17s and Mirage III/5 fighters.

However, Pakistan might be working towards improving its surface-based conventional attack capabilities, especially in the maritime environment. In 2018, Pakistan started test firing the Harbah-series of anti-ship cruising missile (ASCM), and in 2020, the Pakistan Navy (PN) announced that it was developing a new anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the P282. Pakistan is also working on a supersonic-cruising ASCM…

[1] Press Release. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). 03 February 2021. URL:

[2] Press Release. Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). 11 February 2021. URL:

The Hegemony of the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8:4

IRGC-made militias the most dangerous of all Iran-backed groups – study

The new report, “The View from Tehran: Iran’s Militia Doctrine,” finds that Iran’s militia network is not a homogeneous bloc and that only some groups are “proxies.”

Militias manufactured by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are the fastest growing category of Iranian-backed militia in the Middle East, and pose the greatest threat to the region’s stability, according to a new report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

The new report, “The View from Tehran: Iran’s Militia Doctrine,” finds that Iran’s militia network is not a homogeneous bloc and that only some groups are “proxies.”

The so-called “Iran-backed militias” are made up of a combination of independently formed grassroots militias and groups manufactured by the IRGC, the clerical regime’s ideological army.

While the relationship between Iran and the grassroots militias is rooted in tactical or shared interests and is primarily based on supply of weapons and material, the latter is rooted in a shared worldview with these militias fully subscribing to the regime’s ideology of Velayat-e Faqih, which gives Iran’s supreme leader absolute authority over Shia Muslims as God’s representative on Earth.

The IRGC not only arms, trains and funds these manufactured groups, but has also invested heavily in the radicalization and indoctrination of militants, drawing on support from Tehran’s diplomatic, humanitarian, educational and cultural organizations beyond Iran’s borders.

These militias have fully embraced Iran’s state-sanctioned Shia Islamist ideology and have been instrumental to Iran’s military response in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Lebanese Hezbollah is the “gold standard” of the IRGC’s manufactured groups and represents the most dangerous of Iran’s proxies.

Crucially, the report finds that like the IRGC itself, these manufactured groups do not just serve Iranian state deterrence, but in fact are being indoctrinated to fight as “warriors without borders” for Ayatollah Khamenei’s ideological goal of creating a pan-Shi’ite state and eradicating Israel.

Importantly, these groups will fight for Khamenei regardless of access to financial support, and countering them will require a hearts-and-minds counterinsurgency effort. Imposing sanctions on Tehran – or giving sanctions relief – will not be enough to cease their activities.

The report finds that the 2015 nuclear agreement and the easing of international sanctions on Iran did not curb or moderate Iranian-backed militancy or result in the disbanding of the militia doctrine. The number of militia groups created by the IRGC surged after this period and the IRGC’s presence abroad also reached its peak, with the Quds Force expanding its operations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. During this period, the Quds Force also increased its activities on European soil, which includes terrorist plots and assassinations.

The report warns that there is a “militia doctrine” guiding Iran’s use of paramilitary groups, and the network and infrastructure the IRGC have created in pursuit of this doctrine has been designed to outlive the Islamic Republic. This means that should the clerical regime collapse, the IRGC could continue to advance the militia doctrine, albeit in an insurgency mode.

The view from Tehran

Iran’s militia doctrine also says the formal militias that make up Iran’s network of militias and proxies are only the tip of the iceberg and warns that the Islamic Republic has been developing a “soft-power’ capacity over the course of decades that poses a threat beyond the regime itself. These soft-power outfits not only play a critical role for the recruitment and radicalization of foreign fighters, but also enable the regime’s Quds Force to have a presence abroad under a ‘legitimate’ guise for its covert operations, including assassinations and terror plots.

Tony Blair, executive chairman of the Institute for Global Change, said, “This report forms an essential part of the backdrop to how Western policy-makers approach Iran in the coming months. It spells out in detail how the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly through the activities of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, supports, funds and arms militias in the Middle East and beyond.

“Some of these are more remote militia groups; some, the majority, are directly part of the Iranian network of destabilization, seeking to undermine governments and prevent countries from exercising true sovereignty. This campaign is in furtherance of the Islamist ideology of the clerical regime in Iran and unfortunately it is clear that it surged rather than abated in the years following the JCPOA in 2015.

“None of this means that diplomacy directed at curtailing the nuclear program of Iran is wrong or misguided; on the contrary, it is necessary. But it does make the case for any agreement to act as a comprehensive brake on those destabilizing activities and be done in a way which commands support across the region and gives reassurance to Western allies that the West stands with them in their fight against extremism from whatever quarter it comes.”

Policy recommendations

The report suggests policy responses to counter Iran’s network of militias based on the type of relationship each group has with Tehran and their closeness with the Islamic Republic and the IRGC. It proposes a new framework to more accurately determine the nature of the relationships, alliances and allegiances between Tehran and the militias it supports.

These range from sanctions to target the supply chains of grassroots groups with shared interests that have a material relationship with Tehran to more comprehensive measures, encompassing counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, to target the IRGC and “gold-standard” militias which were created by the IRGC and are ideologically compliant with the Islamic Republic.

A full-scale hearts-and-minds counterinsurgency effort may now be needed to counter the soft-power network which the Islamic Republic has developed, and dismantle the threat of Shia militancy in the region. This means as well as contesting the IRGC’s hard power militia assets, policies should aim to sanction and dismantle the infrastructure Iran has built to sustain these groups, such as the soft-power organizations that are complicit in the IRGC’s militancy.

In the Middle East, this will require, among other measures, a coalition of alliances that understands the complex local dynamics through which the regime has won local allegiances; a campaign to gain popular support within Iran’s sphere of influence; and a concerted effort to disrupt the institutions through which it permeates societies day to day.

Beyond the Middle East, this will require governments and policymakers to monitor and potentially sanction organizations like the Al-Mustafa University and the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation that Iran uses to support its militancy. These soft-power outfits not only play a critical role for the recruitment and radicalization of foreign fighters, but also enable the Quds Force to have a presence abroad under a “legitimate” guise for its covert operations, including assassinations and terrorist plots.

Prof. Saeid Golkar is a senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Service at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and an authority on the Basij Militia and the IRGC. Kasra Aarabi is an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and specializes in Iran and Shi’ite Islamist extremism.