January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Timesarticle two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
Iran had threatened to bar U.N. nuclear inspectors if the U.S. doesn’t lift economic sanctions by next week.
The offer coincided with a tweet from the E.U.’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, Enrique Mora, who said that the accord was at “a critical moment” and that he was ready to invite all the participants in the deal to “an informal meeting to discuss the way forward.”
Senior State Department officials told reporters that the announcement represented not a breakthrough but merely a first step on a potentially long, arduous diplomatic effort.
“I think we recognize that this is just a very first initial step to say that we are prepared to attend the meeting that would be convened by the E.U.,” a senior State Department official said.
“We recognize that that’s not in and of itself a breakthrough. Even the first meeting itself may not be a breakthrough,” the official said. “But it is a step. Until we sit down and talk, nothing’s going to happen.”
Workers stand in front of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant in 2010.Reuters file
President Joe Biden promised during his campaign that he would be prepared to bring the U.S. back into the nuclear agreement if Iran returned to compliance with the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear work. Since Biden’s inauguration, administration officials have issued cautious statements and made no indication when talks might begin.
After several weeks when neither side appeared ready to make the first diplomatic move, the U.S. signaled its willingness Thursday to sit down at the negotiating table.
There was no immediate response from Iran.
The senior State Department official suggested that it was up to the Iranians whether they would accept the E.U. invitation.
“We’ll find out, I assume in the coming days, whether they are prepared to join a meeting that the E.U. would convene. Of course, our hope is that they would, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” the official said.
Asked whether the Biden administration had spoken to Iranian officials over the past several weeks leading up to Thursday’s announcement, the senior official declined to answer directly.
“I’m not going to get into, sort of, the logistics of exactly who we spoke to,” the official said.
Since Biden’s election in November, Iran has flouted the agreement’s restrictions on its nuclear program. The Biden administration’s diplomatic green light came after Iran threatened to bar U.N. nuclear inspectors from gaining access to nuclear sites starting next week unless Washington lifts economic sanctions.
The State Department announcement came hours after a joint statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his British, French and German counterparts following talks Thursday. In the statement, Blinken signaled that the U.S. would be “prepared to engage in discussions with Iran” about both countries’ returning to compliance with the nuclear deal.
The three European foreign ministers “welcomed the United States’ stated intention to return to diplomacy with Iran as well as the resumption of a confident and in-depth dialogue between the E3 and the United States,” according to the statement.
The lengthy communique underlined an effort by Biden and European partners to present a united front to Iran after a bitter trans-Atlantic divide during the Trump administration.
Despite strong objections from the Europeans, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear accord, known as the JCPOA, in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy and prompted Tehran to flout restrictions on its nuclear activity.
The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted international and U.S. sanctions in return for strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program.
The joint U.S.-European statement Thursday also included a stern warning to Iran not to follow through on its threat to block U.N. inspectors next week from gaining access to various nuclear sites, a crucial pillar of the deal. Iran’s Parliament adopted a law in November setting a deadline of Feb. 21, which is Sunday, to expel inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, if the U.S. fails to lift sanctions.
“The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity,” the statement said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Europeans must abide by their own commitments and “demand an end to Trump’s legacy of Economic Terrorism,” arguing that Iran’s actions were responses to U.S. and European “violations” of the accord.
“Remove the cause if you fear the effect,” he tweeted shortly after the Western allies released their joint statement. “We’ll follow ACTION w/ action.”
Amid Western warnings, the IAEA’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, was due to visit Tehran on Saturday to try to persuade Iran to hold off. Grossi planned to hold discussions with Iranian officials “to find a mutually agreeable solution for the IAEA to continue essential verification activities in the country,” said Fredrik Dahl, an agency spokesman.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran had agreed to snap inspections and monitoring of its nuclear work by the IAEA.
A European diplomat described the joint E3-U.S. statement as “more carrot than stick,” as it urged Iran to halt uranium enrichment that exceeded limits set out in the 2015 deal and not to follow through on threats to cut off the IAEA inspections.
Iran’s threat to bar U.N. inspectors is one of a series of moves that appear intended to ramp up pressure on Washington to move quickly to re-enter the agreement and lift the sanctions, which have devastated Iran’s economy, according to European diplomats and former U.S. officials.
The Iranian rial lost 80 percent of its value against the dollar during the Trump administration, pushing many Iranians into poverty, while the economy has sharply contracted. The rial briefly rallied after Biden’s election in November, but the currency is on the decline again, and Iranian leaders are increasingly eager to secure relief from the U.S. sanctions.
In violation of the nuclear deal, Iran has started producing uranium metal, which can be used for nuclear weapons, and it is now enriching uranium up to 20 percent — putting it one technical step away from weapons-grade levels.
Iran says it remains within the parameters of the 2015 agreement, arguing that it was the U.S. that violated the deal by withdrawing from the pact in 2018 and reimposing sanctions.
A rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil on Monday, which killed a civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member, also threatened to complicate Western diplomatic efforts. The incident carried echoes of previous rocket assaults by Iranian-backed militias on U.S. targets, but the Biden administration has said it remains unclear who was behind the attack and whether Iran had any role in orchestrating it.
Three versions of domestically built centrifuges from an Iranian uranium enrichment plant.AP file
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a rare phone call Wednesday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, expressed concern about Iran’s failing to meet its obligations under the agreement and called for a more constructive tone that would open the way for diplomacy.
“It is now time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution,” Merkel said, according to a readout from Steffen Seibert, her spokesperson.
In another break with the previous administration to pave the way for diplomacy, U.S. officials Thursday withdrew a Trump administration assertion that all U.N. sanctions had been reimposed in September. Other signatories to the deal did not recognize the Trump administration’s action as valid. The acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Richard Mills, informed the U.N. Security Council of the move in a letter, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Senior State Department officials told reporters that the U.S. was also lifting additional travel restrictions that the Trump administration imposed on Iran’s U.N. mission in New York. The step will restore the status quo that existed before the Trump administration’s actions, which severely limited the movement of Iranian diplomats in New York.
“Today’s actions return our long-standing posture with regard to Iran at the U.N. and in our view will strengthen our ability to work with allies and partners in the U.N. Security Council to address Iran’s nuclear program and other destabilizing activities,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
The new weapon system spends a massive sum of money for the U.S. to be able to threaten a marginally higher-grade nuclear apocalypse than it can threaten now.
Sébastien Roblin, military writer
A fight is brewing on Capitol Hill over continuing a program, begun under President Barack Obama and supported by President Donald Trump, that will cost an estimated $100 billion to develop and deploy improved ground-based missiles that would be used only in a civilization-shattering nuclear war.
The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent is intended to replace Minuteman III intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, in underground silos spread out across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming. Currently, 400 Minuteman missiles are actively deployed. Northrop Grumman was awarded $13.3 billion last year to develop the weapons, 666 of which would be procured, with 400 of them actively deployed.
Most likely the new missiles’ advocates — who include Republicans, centrist Democrats and Air Force brass, in addition to a massive industry lobbying effort — will prevail. But that’s too bad, as the new weapon system devotes a massive sum of money to improving the U.S. ability to threaten a marginally higher-grade nuclear apocalypse than what it can threaten now.
Land-based missiles are generally understood to be the most vulnerable and least flexible of America’s triad of strategic nuclear forces intended to dissuade nuclear attacks from rival powers by promising city-leveling retribution. Unlike with the Navy’s submerged missile submarines or the Air Force’s airborne bombers, the locations of America’s land-based ICBMs are well known, so the states harboring them would be plastered by enemy nuclear strikes in a war.
Indeed, the moment the heat flash of an adversary’s ICBM launch was detected, American or Russian leaders would have only 15 to 30 minutes warning time to consider whether to launch their own ICBMs before they were likely to be destroyed on the “use them or lose them” principle.
Marines assigned to the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force, assemble a combat rubber raiding craft during a regularly scheduled exercise aboard the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Ohio on Feb. 9, 2021.Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Kin / U.S. Navy
By contrast, the two other nuclear triad prongs are less vulnerable to a surprise attack, giving politicians more time to determine whether a nuclear response is warranted. The Navy’s extremely stealthy Ohio-class missile submarines are largely immune to the threat of a pre-emptive strike. Air Force B-52s and B-2 bombers armed with nuclear weapons can be used for missions other than all-out nuclear warfare. And both of those forces are also being expensively modernized already.
Given the advantages of air- and sea-based nuclear deterrents and their ongoing upgrades, there’s a good case to be made that the land-based missile force could be downsized or retired. Even former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promoted the land-based nukes as a decoy of sorts for enemy weapons — a “nuclear sponge” meant to draw nuclear weapons away from coastal cities and military bases.
Proponents of the $100 billion modernization plan point to the nearly half-century-old age of the Minuteman III and argue that a new design is needed to overcome missile defense capabilities. Though details are scant, the new missile should be larger and more accurate, and it should be armed with a more powerful nuclear warhead.
But even if we assume that land-based missiles are necessary to maintain a nuclear sponge to “soak up” enemy attacks, it isn’t true that there’s no other choice but to replace the Minuteman III. To start with, the datedness of the Minuteman is overstated, as the missiles recently had most of their internal components replaced and upgraded. Additional refurbishing could keep the current missiles operational for decades. Alternatively, the Pentagon could look into modifying the Navy’s nuclear missiles to launch them by land.
These less expensive options may not boast the features of a shiny, brand-new missile — but there’s good reason to question how much added strategic deterrence value those features bring. Most of the current force carries warheads 22 times more powerful than the Little Boy atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Advocates of the new program frequently cite new nuclear systems deployed by China and Russia as necessitating improved land-based missiles in the U.S., but they often fail to mention that those improvements may be to make up for perceived advantages the U.S. has, such as stealth bombers and missile defenses. It’s also worth noting that the U.S. may not want to use ICBMs against China at all, given that they would have to overfly Russian airspace and could inadvertently trigger a nuclear attack.
Though it’s true that Russia and China have recently shown interest in boosting their missile defense capabilities, they remain far behind the U.S. And in the unlikely event that Russia or China somehow developed better missile defense capability than the U.S. could manage, the tests, expenses and time required would make it easy to see this development coming, allowing Washington to reconfigure its nuclear forces accordingly.
On the other hand, scrapping this program — or even retiring or downsizing our land-based nuclear missiles in favor of air- or sea-based nuclear forces — not only would save money, but it could also serve as a bargaining chip in negotiations over a future arms control treaty. If the U.S. commits itself to a brand-new system, that chip will be lost while pressure builds to remain committed for decades to a static ICBM force and the projected $264 billion cost over its lifetime.
The bottom line is that the deterrence behind mutually assured destruction is already maintained by America’s nuclear forces. It’s a stretch to think that marginally better missiles would discourage a foreign leader from initiating a nuclear strike any more than the current force. And acquiring them would commit huge sums far into the future to a force that is arguably increasingly obsolete.
American security will be better served if those dollars go to military capabilities it can actually use or to public investments in pandemic prevention and infrastructure or similar safety measures, rather than be invested in the specter of a modestly upgraded nuclear Armageddon.
Tensions with Iran appear underpinned by similar discussions about deterrence
Iran could move up to 200 long-range missiles to Iraq, a report noted earlier this week, a move that would be designed to put in place missiles that could reach Israel. The reason Iran might do this is to prevent a direct IDF retaliation against targets within Iranian territory if there is a confrontation with Iran or Hezbollah in Syria or Lebanon.
In a sense, Iran’s concept of using ballistic missiles based in Iraq is similar to the planning concepts that underpinned US-Soviet tensions over missile bases and strike capability during the Cold War. There was a question in the 1950s over the military logic of using preemption, according to a documentary on US strategic nuclear policy. There was pressure to preempt war through a first strike, which Curtis LeMay called anticipatory retaliation. The notion was that since war was unavoidable one must get the first blow in. Later the doctrine changed to examine how nuclear weapons might be used. Deterrence became a key word in the debate. The development of ballistic missile submarines ensured strategic stability because it was survivable in the case of war.
Tensions with Iran appear underpinned by similar discussions about deterrence. Iran’s use of Iraq provides the country not only with strike capabilities, but deterrence as well. However, this is not as simple as it may look on paper. Iran has been sending weapons for Iraq for years. In the 1980s, it mobilized Iraqi Shi’ites alongside its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to fight Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Badr corps and leaders – like Hadi al-Amiri and the late Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – learned their trade in the 1980s. Later, Iran sent explosive device technology to Iraq. These were called “explosively formed penetrators,” which killed at least 196 Americans. In 2014, when Iran began advising the Iraqis to fight ISIS, they also sent weapons and know-how. Drones, missiles and other munitions followed.
IRAN USED the weakness of Iraq’s state structure to build a militia army in Iraq called the Hashd al-Shaabi, or PMU. This group includes the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Harakat Hezbolah al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah and other groups. In 2017, Qais Khazali, head of AAH, went to Lebanon to showcase Iraqi militia support for Hezbollah. By the summer of 2018 a Kataib Hezbollah headquarters, in a villa near Albukamal, was coordinating Iranian weapons trafficking from Iraq to Syria. This was part of the road to the sea network that links Iran to Lebanon: first through Iraq, then to Syria via Deir Ezzor and T-4 airbase and finally reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also moves weapons via Damascus airport and has tried to set up weapons factories. Iran has also sought to provide Hezbollah with precision guided munitions. Iran also moved drones to T-4 and, in April 2018, tried to move its 3rd Khordad air defense there as well. An airstrike destroyed the 3rd Khordad, according to Ynet. An airstrike also destroyed the KH villa in Albukamal in June 2018. Pro-Iran voices in Iraq have blamed the US-led coalition and Israel for some airstrikes. In July and August 2019, a series of airstrikes hit pro-Iranian militia warehouses in Iraq. These included Camp Falcon near Baghdad.
IN AUGUST 2018, Iran moved ballistic missiles to Iraq, according to Reuters. Iran secretly moved more missiles to Iraq in November 2019, reports indicate. Iran also constructed the Imam Ali base near Albukamal. In May 2020, it built new storage tunnels at the Imam Ali base. Iraqi-based militias linked to Iran have also vowed to support Hezbollah in a war with Israel. In February 2018, as the PMU was being incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces, Akram al-Kaabi of Harakat Hezbollah vowed to support Hezbollah. After the US killed IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani, Hezbollah sent Sheikh Mohammed Kawtharani to Iraq to help coordinate the PMU in February 2020.
This is the complete picture of Iranian involvement in Iraq and potential Iraqi militia support for Hezbollah. This picture is also how the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have helped festoon Syria with their networks and supporters. The ballistic missile issue has been raised in the past. Iran has moved 107 mm. short-range Katyusha rockets to Iraq to target American forces. It has also moved 122 mm. grad rockets and the Fajr 1 rocket, which have a range of nearly 60 km. The Fajr 5 has also been moved to Iraq, with a range of 75km. We also know the Fateh 110 was sent to Iraq in 2015. Iran has supplied Hamas in the past with technology such as the 240 mm. Fajr 3 rocket that has a 43km range. A CSIS report noted that Iran has shipped the Zelzal, Fateh 110 and Zolfagher to Iraq. These have ranges of 150 km. to 700 km. Iran has used precision rockets against Kurdish dissidents in Koya in 2018, against ISIS in Syria and against the US in Ayn al-Assad base in January 2020 in Iraq. Its latest attack was likely against
IRAN’S ARSENAL of rockets is well known. It has a plethora of them and keeps increasing their abilities. A quick rundown, aside those mentioned above, include the solid-fueled Fateh 313, the liquid-fueled Shahab 1 and Qiam, as well as the Shahab 3, and the solid-fueled Sejjil. There are also the Ghadr, Khorramshahr and Emad missiles. Many of these can be mounted on trucks, making them mobile. The rockets that are solid fueled can be wheeled out and fired immediately, such as from a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL). Iran has a large arsenal of missiles to choose from as it seeks to move some to Iraq.
The past indicates the threat the missiles in Iraq can pose to Israel. During the ‘Great Scud Hunt’ of 1991, US-led Coalition air power flew 2,493 missions trying to find Scud missiles that were supposedly out in Iraq’s western desert. 42 Scuds were launched at Israel from Iraq. At the time it was believed they were being moved on large trucks that require some time to disassemble before or after launch in order to be hidden from airstrikes. Overall the mission to find the Scuds was a disaster. Iraq’s fleet of TELs was able to disperse and the use of F-15s and U-2 spy planes, as well as A-10s, didn’t work in finding the launchers. That was back in 1991, and technology has improved since.
The Iranian base at Albukamal is around 540 km. from Israel. Missiles in Iran’s inventory with that range include the Fateh 313, the Zolfagher, Ghadr, Khorramshahr, Sejjil, the Shahab 3 and perhaps the Shahab 2 if its range can be extended. Iran has vastly increased the precision of its missiles over time, and it has added drones and other munitions to its arsenal. This makes the setup very different from 1991. Iran has shown sophisticated capabilities in the past, such as the drone and cruise missile swarm attack on Saudi Arabia in September 2019. However, it has also proved that in Syria the rockets it supplied to groups intended to be used against Israel – such as in the salvo in May 2018 or the four rockets fired in November 2019 – were not as sophisticated.
Updated 02 February 2021 Ruba Obaid February 01, 2021 15:36
JEDDAH: Iran will be weeks away from building a nuclear bomb if it stays on its current path, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday.
In his first TV interview since his appointment was confirmed last month, Blinken said Tehran was months away from being able to produce enough material for a weapon, but it would be “a matter of weeks” if it continued to breach the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions, is an early foreign policy challenge for the new Biden administration.
Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy, and Tehran has responded by gradually increasing its enrichment of uranium beyond what is permitted under the deal.
Blinken said on Monday the US was willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA if Iran did, and then work with US allies and partners on a “longer and stronger” agreement encompassing other issues.
Iran has rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants in the JCPOA, after French President Emmanuel Macron said new talks should include Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom and its Gulf allies believe any enhanced agreement should address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
Blinken’s reference to a timeframe for Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb means the issue must be resolved rapidly, because the US will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The US is giving Iran an ultimatum to solve the matter within weeks,” he said.
Al-Shehri said the international community was aware that if Iran obtained a nuclear weapon, it would not be alone in the region. “Other countries will not accept that Iran possesses nuclear weapons alone, and remain standing idly by,” he said.
“However, although the US is offering to open the door for Iran to return to a deal, entrance is subject to certain conditions,” Al-Shehri said. These included US follow-up to ensure Iran’s compliance, addressing other issues such as ballistic missiles, and involving other countries including Saudi Arabia, he said.
Iran would understand the threat and was unlikely to wholly reject the proposal, Al-Shehri said.
Wednesday, 17 February, 2021 – 08:45
Iran Tells IAEA It Plans to Scale Back Cooperation in a Week
Wednesday, 17 February, 2021 – 06:00
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/
Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog it will dramatically scale back cooperation with it in a week, a report by the agency to its member states showed on Tuesday, ratcheting up protests against US sanctions still choking its economy.
Iran has accelerated its breaches of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers in recent months, partly as demanded by a law passed in response to the killing in November of its top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on its foe Israel.
The breaches began in 2019 in response to a US withdrawal from the deal under then-President Donald Trump, and Iran is now locked in a standoff with President Joe Biden’s administration over who should move first to save the accord.
“Iran informed the IAEA on 15 February that the country will stop implementing voluntary transparency measures under the JCPOA as of 23 February, including the Additional Protocol,” an International Atomic Energy Agency statement said.
JCPOA stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal’s official name.
Under the deal, Iran is applying the Additional Protocol, which grants the IAEA the power to carry out short-notice inspections at locations not declared to it. It is in addition to core obligations under a country’s so-called Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Iran has signed but not ratified it.
The IAEA gave more details on what Iran had told it, however, in a report to its member states on Tuesday seen by Reuters. It listed seven other “transparency measures” that Iran said it plans to stop implementing, some of them worded very similarly to section headings in the text of the deal.
“Use of modern technologies and long term presence of IAEA” was one item, which is a close match for a section of the deal that increased the number of designated IAEA inspectors for Iran and required Tehran to allow the use of technologies like online measurement of uranium enrichment and electronic seals, which enable remote, real-time monitoring of activity by the agency.
“Transparency measures related to enrichment” was another, resembling a section of the deal that says Tehran will grant the agency “regular access, including daily access as requested by the IAEA, to relevant buildings at Natanz”, Iran’s main uranium enrichment site.
“Given the serious impact of the above-mentioned measures being implemented”, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi reminded Iran of an offer to visit to “find a mutually agreeable solution for the agency to continue essential verification activities”, the report added, referring to a letter sent by Grossi to Tehran on Tuesday.
Germany has warned Iran against obstructing IAEA inspections, saying it would be “completely unacceptable” and urging it to desist to give diplomacy a chance, a diplomatic source in Berlin told Reuters on Tuesday.