We really are due for the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

Opinion/Al Southwick: Could an earthquake really rock New England? We are 265 years overdue

On Nov. 8, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake struck Buzzard’s Bay off the coast of New Bedford. Reverberations were felt up to 100 miles away, across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and parts of Connecticut and New York. News outlets scrambled to interview local residents who felt the ground shake their homes. Seismologists explained that New England earthquakes, while uncommon and usually minor, are by no means unheard of.

The last bad one we had took place on Nov. 18, 1755, a date long remembered.

It’s sometimes called the Boston Earthquake and sometimes the Cape Ann Earthquake. Its epicenter is thought to have been in the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles east of Gloucester. Estimates say that it would have registered between 6.0 and 6.3 on the modern Richter scale. It was an occasion to remember as chronicled by John E. Ebel, director of the Weston observatory of Boston College:

“At about 4:30 in the morning on 18 November, 1755, a strong earthquake rocked the New England area. Observers reported damage to chimneys, brick buildings and stone walls in coastal communities from Portland, Maine to south of Boston … Chimneys were also damaged as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut. The earthquake was felt at Halifax, Nova Scotia to the northeast, Lake Champlain to the northwest, and Winyah, South Carolina to the southwest. The crew of a ship in deep water about 70 leagues east of Boston thought it had run aground and only realized it had felt an earthquake after it arrived at Boston later that same day.

“The 1755 earthquake rocked Boston, with the shaking lasting more than a minute. According to contemporary reports, as many as 1,500 chimneys were shattered or thrown down in part, the gable ends of about 15 brick buildings were broken out, and some church steeples ended up tilted due to the shaking. Falling chimney bricks created holes in the roofs of some houses. Some streets, particularly those on manmade ground along the water, were so covered with bricks and debris that passage by horse-drawn carriage was impossible. Many homes lost china and glassware that was thrown from shelves and shattered. A distiller’s cistern filled with liquor broke apart and lost its contents.”

We don’t have many details of the earthquake’s impact here, there being no newspaper in Worcester County at that time. We do know that one man, Christian Angel, working in a “silver” mine in Sterling, was buried alive when the ground shook. He is the only known fatality in these parts. We can assume that, if the quake shook down chimneys in Springfield and New Haven, it did even more damage hereabouts. We can imagine the cries of alarm and the feeling of panic as trees swayed violently, fields and meadows trembled underfoot and pottery fell off shelves and crashed below.

The Boston Earthquake was an aftershock from the gigantic Lisbon Earthquake that had leveled Lisbon, Portugal, a few days before. That cataclysm, estimated as an 8 or 9 on the modern Richter scale, was the most devastating natural catastrophe to hit western Europe since Roman times. The first shock struck on Nov. 1, at about 9 in the morning.

According to one account: ”Suddenly the city began to shudder violently, its tall medieval spires waving like a cornfield in the breeze … In the ancient cathedral, the Basilica de Santa Maria, the nave rocked and the massive chandeliers began swinging crazily. . . . Then came a second, even more powerful shock. And with it, the ornate façade of every great building in the square … broke away and cascaded forward.”

Until that moment, Lisbon had been one of the leading cities in western Europe, right up there with London and Paris. With 250,000 people, it was a center of culture, financial activity and exploration. Within minutes it was reduced to smoky, dusty rubble punctuated by human groans and screams. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 lost their lives.

Since then, New England has been mildly shaken by quakes from time to time. One series of tremors on March 1, 1925, was felt throughout Worcester County, from Fitchburg to Worcester, and caused a lot of speculation.

What if another quake like that in 1755 hit New England today? What would happen? That question was studied 15 years ago by the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency. Its report is sobering:

“The occurrence of a Richter magnitude 6.25 earthquake off Cape Ann, Massachusetts … would cause damage in the range of 2 to 10 billion dollars … in the Boston metropolitan area (within Route 128) due to ground shaking, with significant additional losses due to secondary effects such as soil liquefaction failures, fires and economic interruptions. Hundreds of deaths and thousands of major and minor injuries would be expected … Thousands of people could be displaced from their homes … Additional damage may also be experienced outside the 128 area, especially closer to the earthquake epicenter.”

So even if we don’t worry much about volcanoes, we know that hurricanes and tornadoes are always possible. As for earthquakes, they may not happen in this century or even in this millennium, but it is sobering to think that if the tectonic plates under Boston and Gloucester shift again, we could see a repeat of 1755.

Ousted by war, Antichrist Tries to Return Iraq’s Christians Homes

Ousted by war, Iraq’s Christians struggle to reclaim homes

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Fleeing war or threats of persecution, Iraq’s Christians left behind thousands of homes in recent years – returning to find them occupied by militiamen or secretly sold using fabricated deeds.

Getting those houses back, families, clergy and officials told AFP, is a dizzying bureaucratic process that usually ends in failure.

“In the end, I sold my home at the price they demanded,” said Fawzi Bulos, a Catholic veterinarian, who once owned a spacious house on the Iraqi capital’s plush Palestine Street.

He hasn’t stepped foot in it since 2007.

At the time, Baghdad was gripped by a sectarian war that had erupted following the 2003 US-led invasion.

Fearing persecution, Bulos took his dentist wife and children north to the relative calm of Iraqi Kurdistan.

But soon, squatters moved into his home.

For years, he begged high-level government officials and military commanders to evict them, even travelling to Baghdad when it calmed down to see the house in person.

Mediation efforts ended in death threats and a legal complaint failed — the squatters were too well-connected.

A decade after he fled, Bulos reluctantly sold his home to the squatters for around $400,000, the same amount he had spent in legal fees and bribes paid to opportunistic middlemen promising to resolve the case.

“I thought it was better I come out alive,” he said.

Forced doors, fake deeds

Before 2003, Baghdad counted a diverse Christian population.

But once sectarian bloodletting began, they fled to Iraqi Kurdistan or abroad, leaving their homes in the care of relatives or Muslim neighbours until they could return.

Within months, many discovered that other families had moved in, claiming to be the real owners, or that armed factions had turned their homes into command centres.

“In many cases, people just broke down doors. In others, they tampered with the deeds,” said Yunan al-Farid, a Greek Orthodox priest in Baghdad who advocates on behalf of victims of squatting.

Muslims lost their homes in similar ways following Saddam Hussein’s ouster, either during the chaotic civil war or as retribution against members of his toppled regime.

In 2008, with sectarian violence easing, Iraq created a commission to return homes in Baghdad to their rightful owners.

More than a decade later, the body told AFP it had successfully returned more than 26,500 homes in Baghdad, now a city of 10 million people.

Among them were only 50 Christian-owned homes, said current commissioner Mudhir al-Mulla. The body has not published the overall number of return requests it has received.

‘We have no one’

One of the reasons is bureaucracy, with dozens of stamps and signatures needed to process a complaint.

Even Christian owners who acquired eviction orders found security forces unable or unwilling to enforce them, said William Warda, who heads the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation.

After seeing fellow Christians lose their homes even with court orders, many are too sceptical to even begin the process.

“Then, judges say they can’t do anything unless they are presented with a complaint,” Warda said.

More broadly, Christians say the system is rigged.

The post-2003 power-sharing system paved the way for Shiite parties and armed groups to win unprecedented sway in Iraq’s parliament, ministries and security forces.

Christians, who make up less than one percent of Iraq’s 40 million people today, were granted a quota of five lawmakers in the 329-seat legislature.

But the MPs are seen as weak, and beholden to the larger political factions with whom they have aligned.

“At least Muslims can go to their political parties or tribes, who will defend them,” said Farid, the Greek Orthodox priest. “But us, we have no one.”

Little hope to go home

Iraq’s Christians were hit with another devastating blow in 2014, when the Islamic State group swept through their historic heartland in the northern province of Nineveh.

Tens of thousands of Christians fled their homes, often forgetting their deeds.

Returning after ISIS’s defeat in 2017, they found their properties had been taken over by armed groups that had gained tremendous power after battling the jihadis.

Many of the occupying forces were themselves minorities, including Christian, and were subsequently blacklisted by the US for illegally seizing civilian property.

In recent months, an unlikely figure has emerged as a self-styled champion of the issue – cleric and former militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

A terrifying name in the 2000s for US troops and Iraqi minorities alike, Sadr now heads parliament’s largest bloc.

He recently called for Christian-owned homes to be protected and returned to their rightful owners.

With a bitter smile, Iraqi Christians and government officials pointed out to AFP that a number of forced expropriations were carried out by Sadrists themselves.

With a historic visit by Pope Francis due in March, the issue could gain new traction – but advocates are not hopeful.

“Of the cases I know, 20 percent were resolved. But the remaining 80 percent are still a huge problem,” said Farid.

Without institutions, some said, Christians are forced to beg for rights from top leaders, like second-class citizens. 

“There’s no law, no institution to guarantee Iraq’s diversity and citizenship for all,” Warda told AFP.

“And as long as this is the case, Christians will be subject to the whims of the powers that be.”

By Sarah Benhaida

Who Killed the Civilian Contractor in Iraq Rocket Attack?

Civilian Contractor Killed in Iraq Rocket Attack

A February 15 rocket attack on United States’ troops in northern Iraq killed one civilian contractor and injured several others, including one U.S. serviceman and several American contractors. While approximately 14 rockets were lobbed at the U.S. airbase in Erbil, only three landed inside the base. The other rockets fell on nearby residential areas in this Kurdistan capital city.

Iran : A ‘Horn’ going for an atomic bomb

Iran : A ‘cat’ going for an atomic bomb

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Alavi, made a rather strange analogy in his recent interview:

“[Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei issued a fatwa (religious decree) in February 2010 stating that acquiring atomic bomb for Iran was considered a sin and the Islamic Republic would not pursue it. But if a cat is pushed to a corner, it may behave differently than if it was free. If Iran is pushed in that direction (production of a nuclear bomb), then Iran cannot be blamed for,” said Alavi (Iran’s Channel 2 TV, February 8, 2021).

Alavi likened the regime to a cat trapped in a corner. This analogy is a good indication of the situation in which the regime finds itself. Considering the volatile state of the Iranian regime, especially in recent months, one could be certain that these revelations could not have been expressed with Iran’s supreme leader’s permission. It is believed that Khamenei, via the intelligence minister, wants to put the International Atomic Energy Agency in a quandary and to convince them to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. This quandary is just a wish for Iran’s supreme leader and will never materialize.

But there’s a March 3, 2021 deadline.

Speaking on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, warned the United States that with the new government in Washington, there is an opportunity to try a new approach towards Iran. Still, the present circumstances are not going to last long.

Zarif’s deputy, Abbas Araghchi, reiterated that if sanctions were not lifted before Feb. 21, 2021, Iran would have no choice but to suspend the implementation of nuclear protocols. “If nothing happens before Feb. 21, 2021, and the sanctions are not lifted before that date, we have no choice but to implement the decisions of our government. So we will stop implementing the nuclear protocols, which means that the number of inspections by the IAEA will be decreased, and there would be fewer IAEA inspectors,” said Araqchi.

Why is Iran so persistent on so many fronts?

The geopolitics of the region has changed entirely since 2015. Iran’s influence in Lebanon and Iraq has been widely questioned and challenged. Regime forces in Syria have been bombed by Israel at least 500 times. Russia is pressuring Iran to reduce its influence and footprint in Syria further. Israel’s agreements with the UAE and other Arab countries are a new front against Iran. The Islamic Republic has gone through two uprisings since 2015, in 2017 and 2019. In February 2019’s mass uprising, the Khamenei’s regime survived by opening fire at mass demonstrations, killing at least 1,500 people.

Ghasem Soleimani, the second person in the regime’s hierarchy of power and the central figure in its regional influence, was killed in January 2020 in Baghdad. Considering all the above reasons, Western countries are unwilling to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement without discussing Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities and its export of terrorism to the neighboring countries. Of course, Iran’s worsening state of human rights could be also be included in the final agreement (if any).

In an interview with China’s CJT network, Araqchi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, rejected U.S. President Joe Biden’s inclination to include Iran’s missile program and other regional issues in possible negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He mentioned that matters of discussion must consist of restrictions on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions. In a meeting with the commanders of the army’s air force and air defense, Khamenei said: “The Islamic Republic’s firm policy regarding the nuclear agreement is lifting all sanctions by the United States and its verification by Iran. Only then will Iran return to its obligations penned in the nuclear deal.” In the past, Khamenei had repeatedly reiterated that Iran could do without the nuclear agreement.

On the contrary, Iran is in dire need of the revival of the nuclear agreement. Opposition to the nuclear agreement or exhibiting indifference towards it by different Iran authorities is intended to show a strong façade to the regime’s loyalists and nothing more. On many occasions, Javad Zarif has admitted that he does not determine Iran’s foreign policies. Moreover, according to Iranian law, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence is appointed by Khamenei, so it is naive to think that either Zarif or Alavi have made such revelations without Khamenei’s approval. All signs indicate that Khamenei is indeed eager to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Will Khamenei sign a possible 2021 nuclear agreement?

The two uprisings of 2017 and 2019 and the increasing dismay of Iran’s oppressed people have chased Iran’s Supreme Leader into a corner, like a cat trapped in a dead-end alley seeking any refuge or escape. The oppressed people of Iran are on the move and are not planning to stop.

Some observers close to the regime’s intelligence circles think that the regime had expected massive uprisings in the summer of 2021, perhaps one that would have brought this regime to the end of its life. The arrival of COVID-19 to Iran, and the high number of casualties provided the regime with some temporary breathing room. However, recent hasty executions (34 executions per month) and installing various patrols and guards throughout the country indicate that the regime is alert and watchful, hoping to prolong its existence.

Khamenei in fact is cornered by the imminent uprisings and an array of sanctions.

The Iranian regime’s existence has always been based on two pillars: internal repression and the export of terrorism. Terrorism and war have been a cover-up for gross human rights abuses at home and a justification for suppressing the people’s economic and social expectations.

A possible 2021 agreement could have advantages for Iran, temporarily. The regime will be forced to abandon one of its pillars of survival, the export of terrorism. The regime will lose its equilibrium and balance and speed towards its collapse and overthrown in this scenario. Looking back at the parliamentary elections of 2020 in Iran, most of the candidates not affiliated with Khamenei were disqualified and banned from being elected. Khamenei had tried to bring the parliament under his absolute control and was somehow successful. If Iran enters a possible 2021 nuclear agreement, it seems the so-called reformists may benefit from it politically, and it could be considered an act of defeat for Khamenei.

This situation could be a critical crack in its tight grip on people’s will and will result in massive uprisings, the one that Khamenei’s regime will not survive.

If Khamenei refuses any possible 2021 nuclear deal and lets the stream of sanctions and economic collapse continue, sooner than later, the beginning of a nationwide uprising will be ignited, one that Khamenei could not survive, too.

Image: Mostafa Meraji / Pixabay / Pixabay License

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Why Khamenei’s nuclear lies are worthless: Daniel 8:4

Why Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa is worthless

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a mask during a virtual speech, in Tehran, Iran February 17, 2021. (Reuters)

The Iranian regime has long claimed that its nuclear program is only meant for peaceful purposes, rather than to obtain nuclear weapons. It believes that the world should accept its claim because Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has in the past issued a fatwa forbidding the production or use of nuclear weapons.

Khamenei reportedly wrote in a 2010 letter to the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament that: “We consider the use of such weapons as haram (religiously forbidden) and believe that it is everyone’s duty to make efforts to secure humanity against this great disaster.” The supreme leader also states on his official website that the production and use of nuclear weapons are banned by Islamic laws: “Both Shariah and aqli (related to logic and reason) fatwas dictate that we do not pursue them.”

When Iran’s leaders meet with world leaders, they frequently and conveniently refer to Khamenei’s words, using them to explain why Tehran is not seeking a nuclear bomb. For example, when Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with US Sen. Rand Paul in 2019, he told him about Iran’s unwillingness to seek nuclear weapons precisely because of this fatwa.

Putting Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities aside, Khamenei’s fatwa has unfortunately become something that not only Iran’s leaders, but also other world leaders, use to insist that Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful. For instance, former US President Barack Obama, in an attempt to seal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, declared in his address to the UN General Assembly in 2013 that: “The Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.” Former US Secretary of State John Kerry also said: “The supreme leader says he has issued a fatwa, the highest form of Islamic prohibition against some activity, and he said that is to prohibit Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon.”

Hillary Clinton added her support by further pushing the narrative of the Iranian regime. According to her: “The other interesting development which you may have followed was the repetition by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that they would — that he had — issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, against weapons of mass destruction… I have discussed this with a number of experts and religious scholars.”

Iran’s constitution was written in a way that allows the government to prioritize codified laws over religious fatwas.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

But any scholar or astute observer of the Islamic Republic would be cognizant of the fact that fatwas issued by the supreme leader are more like political statements aimed at ensuring the regime’s survival rather than “the highest form of Islamic prohibition.” For one thing, Iran’s founding father and its first supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued fatwas that he later modified. So what is there to prevent Khamenei from changing his fatwa on banning nuclear weapons?

More fundamentally, although the Islamic Republic stresses the significance of Islamic law, its leaders wrote Iran’s constitution in a way that allows the government to prioritize codified laws over religious fatwas. According to article 167 of the constitution, “the judge is bound to endeavor to judge each case on the basis of the codified law.” It adds: “In case of the absence of any such law, he has to deliver his judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa.”

In other words, just as the Iranian parliament recently passed a law banning monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites, it could also pass a law allowing the government to pursue nuclear weapons for the survival of the Islamic Republic. Such a law would override Khamenei’s fatwa, according to the Iranian constitution.

This also shows that the main goal of the Islamic Republic’s constitution was not to implement Islamic laws, but to ensure the power of the theocratic establishment. Even Khomeini mentioned on several occasions that Islamic laws could be ignored if necessary. He pointed out that “the government is empowered to unilaterally revoke any Shariah agreements which it has concluded with the people when these agreements are contrary to the interest of the country or Islam.” On another occasion, Khomeini stated that “the government can prevent Hajj, which is one of the important divine obligations, on a temporary basis, in cases when it is contrary to the interests of the Islamic country.”

That is why Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, who is a close adviser to Khamenei, pointed out this month that Iran may in fact pursue nuclear weapons despite the supreme leader’s fatwa. He said: “I must make it clear that, if a cat is pushed into the corner, it may behave differently from a cat that walks freely. If Iran is pushed into a corner, it will not be its fault (i.e., the pursuit of nuclear weapons) but rather the fault of those pushing it.”

In spite of the Iranian leaders’ rhetoric, the evidence shows that Iran’s nuclear program is not intended for only peaceful purposes.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

The Iranian Horn Never Halted Its Nuclear Program : Daniel 8

Signs Iran’s nuclear weapons program never halted

Traces of radioactivity were found recently at two Iranian sites where Tehran has reported no nuclear activity.

Raphael Ofek

(February 21, 2021 / BESA Center)

Samples collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at two Iranian sites where Tehran has not reported any nuclear activity showed traces of radioactivity. Although the IAEA refrained from naming the sites in its quarterly report of June 5, 2020, they were identified last year by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. The identification was based on information extracted from the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled out of Tehran and into Israel in January 2018.

The first site visited by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 was a pilot plant for uranium conversion, with an emphasis on the production of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, a uranium compound which, in its gaseous phase, enables the enrichment of uranium by centrifuges). This site, located about 47 miles southeast of Tehran, operated under the aegis of the Amad military nuclear program. In documents from the Iranian nuclear archive, this location is referred to as the “Tehran Site.” The facility was dismantled in 2004.

The other site was Marivan, located near the town of Abadeh in central Iran. This facility, also part of the Amad program, was designed to conduct “cold tests” of nuclear weapons (that is, to simulate the activation of a nuclear explosive device using natural uranium rather than weapons-grade uranium). This included operating a multipoint explosive system for the activation of a nuclear weapon, as well as the development of its neutron initiator.

According to satellite imagery published by ISIS, Iran razed part of the Marivan facility in July 2019, more than a year before they allowed IAEA inspectors access to it. It is likely that this was done to prevent exposure to nuclear activities that had taken place there in the past. (This was not the first time the Islamic regime had razed nuclear sites: it did so at the Lavizan-Shian facility in Tehran in 2004 and the Parchin facility in 2012.) It is possible that the traces of radioactive materials found in samples taken by IAEA inspectors in August 2020 indicate renewed efforts to develop a neutron initiator for nuclear weapons previously conducted at the Marivan site.

The IAEA report of June 5, 2020, referred to a third location as well. Though its name was not revealed in the report, it was implied that it was the facility the regime had previously operated in Lavizan-Shian. This suspicion was based on the fact that between 2002 and 2003, a metallic natural uranium disc was found at the site that had been processed by drilling and hydriding (compressing hydrogen atoms inside uranium), an activity Iran neither reported to the IAEA nor provided an explanation for. This finding suggests that the regime had attempted to develop a UD3 neutron initiator at the site.

In addition to all of the above, Iran periodically intensifies its confrontation with the IAEA, causing great concern to the United States and the West. The following are examples:

• Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent, a level that can serve as a springboard to 90 percent (weapons-grade). The regime announced on Jan. 28 that it had accumulated 17 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium and intends to reach an annual production capacity of 120 kg. Note that 150-200 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium are required to reach 15-20 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium. (According to other calculations, Iran could accumulate 90 percent enriched uranium for its first bomb within a matter of a few months.)

Iran recently installed three cascades at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, each containing 174 advanced IR-2m centrifuges. They were scheduled to go into operation as early as Jan. 30, with the aim of reaching 1,000 operational centrifuges of this type at Natanz within three months. Iran also began installing two cascades, each with about 170 of the more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, at the Fordow enrichment facility.

• On Jan. 13, Iran informed the IAEA that it was researching the production of metallic uranium—an activity which, if true, is another violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement. Britain, France and Germany have expressed concern that the metallic uranium produced by Iran will be used for nuclear weapons development.

• Iran has not yet provided the IAEA with a plausible explanation for the low-enriched uranium particles found by agency inspectors in 2019 in samples taken from a warehouse at the Turquzabad site in Tehran. An IAEA report from last November said the particulate compounds were similar to particulates found in Iran in the past that turned out to have been from imported centrifuge components (purchased from Pakistan, according to earlier publications). This theory was backed up by the fact that the particles included (among other things) the uranium-236 isotope, which does not exist in nature but is formed as a result of neutron capture by the uranium-235 nucleus—a process that takes place inside a nuclear reactor. As far as is known, it is unlikely that the process of manufacturing the particulates containing uranium-236 took place in Iran.

The problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is now largely in the hands of Joe Biden, though he is not enthusiastic about taking it on. Biden stated during his election campaign that he intends to return the United States to the JCPOA, albeit with amendments, and remove the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration, but it is doubtful that he has formulated a clear policy on this issue so far. He did, however, announce on Feb. 8 that the United States will not lift sanctions until Iran fulfills its obligations under the JCPOA.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Feb. 1 that the breakout time in which Iran might ramp up enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade “has gone from beyond a year [under the deal] to about three or four months.” He also said an agreement with Iran should be “longer and stronger.” However, many of Biden’s newly appointed officials (including Blinken) are former members of Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the JCPOA. The appointment of Robert Malley as the U.S. special envoy to Iran raises particular concerns. If the United States does return to a courtship of Tehran, the task of dealing with the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons may be left primarily to Israel.

IDF Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek, a BESA Center Research Associate, is an expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology who served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community.

A Reminder of the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

Summervillew Earthquake, a reminder of earthquakes past

It was around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, that the 2.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded. It was a shake-up that took place in northeast Summerville, neighboring the Berkley and Dorchester county border, and largely went unnoticed by locals. 

Generally earthquakes that are less than a magnitude 3.0 are not felt, explained Mario Formisano, Dorchester County Director of Emergency Management.

However, there have been approximately 50 reports of residents who said they felt its effects, according to the United States Geological Survey. Still, there remains no reports of injury or damage.

The very nature of earthquakes are completely unpredictable, which is why members of the Dorchester County Emergency Management Department have exercised earthquake preparedness scenarios multiple times throughout the past decade. 

Formisano said that because of the counties positioning along the seismic zone, a mitigation plan has been put in place, identifying earthquakes as a major natural hazard for the area. This plan outlines mitigation strategies developed to reduce impacts in the case of a more severe quake.

Many new residents move to the area unaware of the local seismic zone. Formaisano pointed out that while some residents will opt to pick up an earthquake insurance policy, many gamble on avoiding experiencing a major earthquake in their lifetime.

Though records indicate that the last several earthquakes have registered at magnitudes low enough for there to be little to no impact, the area is not unaccustomed to facing a quake of larger volume.

With a magnitude of 7.3, the historical Charleston earthquake of 1886 led to economic losses of approximately $23 million dollars and at least 60 deaths all within the first moments of its impact, according to a report by the USGS.

Additionally, within 10 minutes, the effects of the quake were reported to have been experienced in places as far away as New York, Missouri and Illinois.

Over the next 30 years, the USGS reported that more than 400 aftershocks were felt in the surrounding Charleston area, contributing to additional wreckage.

Today, the risk remains of a natural disaster that equates to the historical earthquake of 1886.

“The risk has and will always exist for a major earthquake in our area,” Formaisano said. “That combined with the unpredictability of earthquakes is a reminder for residents and business to always be prepared.”