East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

East Coast Earthquake Preparedness
By By BEN NUCKOLS
Posted: 08/25/2011 8:43 am EDT
WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.
A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.
The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.
In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.
At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.
A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.
Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.
The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.
Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.
“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.
“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.
“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.
Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.
At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.
“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”
Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.
The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.
The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.
The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.
In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.
At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”
Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.
Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.
“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”
The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.
Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.
A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.
“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”
An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.
The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.
Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.
It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.
The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.
People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.
In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.
Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.
“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.
“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”
___
Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Stonewall Inspectors: Daniel 8:4

The IAEA’s Latest Iran NPT Safeguards Report: Tehran Continues to Stonewall Inspectors

by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker[1]February 25, 2021

This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA’s) periodic safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the most recent of which was issued on February 23, 2021. The IAEA report itself represents a thorough overview of the IAEA’s investigation in Iran since 2018 and Tehran’s continued stonewalling of IAEA requests for explanations and clarifications about undeclared nuclear material and activities. The IAEA calls on Iran to “clarify and resolve these issues

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The report’s major finding is that there has been “lack of progress in clarifying the safeguards issues” related to the agency’s investigation into undeclared nuclear material and activities at four locations in Iran.
  • The IAEA reports that it detected “anthropogenic uranium particles” at two undeclared sites in Iran. Iran has not provided credible technical explanations to the agency to account for the presence of the particles. In January 2020, the IAEA first requested access to the sites, one called the Tehran site, and the other called Marivan, but Iran refused. Under international pressure, Iran finally acquiesced and the IAEA visited and took samples in August and September 2020.
  • The IAEA reports that “after 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of nuclear material particles” that the agency detected in February 2019 at a warehouse location in Iran, commonly referred to as Turquz-Abad.
  • Iran has not explained to the IAEA where nuclear material in the form of a metal disc is now located, which allegedly relates to Iran’s early efforts to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator for nuclear weapons at the undeclared Lavisan-Shian site.
  • Iran’s decision to stop implementing the Additional Protocol (AP) to its comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) on February 23, 2021 does not free Iran from its legal requirements to answer the IAEA’s questions and provide access to requested sites. Any attempt by Iran to use its recent actions to reduce IAEA monitoring and refuse answering the IAEA’s questions or hinder verification activities at undeclared locations should be severely condemned as a violation of its comprehensive safeguards agreement, which Iran pledged to continue to implement “fully and without limitation.”
  • The IAEA correctly points out in its report that it seeks answers relating to the “correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations,” the traditional manner of dealing with the possibility of undeclared materials and activities under the CSA. As a NPT state party that implements a CSA, Iran is required to answer the IAEA’s questions about undeclared nuclear material and activities, with or without an AP in force. Thus, the IAEA is empowered to continue requesting access to undeclared locations if its concerns pertain to potentially undeclared nuclear material and activities, and if necessary, request special inspections, a CSA provision that enables IAEA access to non-declared sites in a country, including both military and civilian sites.
  • Iran notified the IAEA that it will no longer implement the CSA’s Modified Code 3.1, which requires Iran to provide the IAEA with notification as a decision is taken to construct a nuclear facility and related design information, rather than much closer to the facility’s date of operation with nuclear material. Iran has claimed this code is a voluntary JCPOA commitment, but the IAEA has reminded Iran that implementation of Modified Code 3.1 is a legal CSA obligation – not a voluntary measure – and “cannot be modified unilaterally.” In the past, Iran has unilaterally suspended its implementation of Modified Code 3.1, in violation of its safeguards agreement. The IAEA noted that this would be a violation of Iran’s CSA.
  • Iran’s continued refusal to cooperate with the agency on these matters, combined with its steady and provocative nuclear advances and rhetoric over the past months, call for more IAEA oversight, not less. Iran’s actions and refusal to explain undeclared nuclear material and activities underscore that the international community has diminishing confidence that its nuclear program is devoted strictly to peaceful uses.
  • At its meeting from March 1-5, 2021, the IAEA Board of Governors should pass a resolution demanding Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s outstanding questions and concerns with a firm deadline. If Iran continues to deny cooperation, the Board should vote to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Four Locations of Interest

In this report, the IAEA describes in detail its attempts to verify Iran’s safeguards declarations based on evidence it obtained that alleges Tehran’s undeclared use or storage of nuclear material at four locations. The IAEA refers to these as Locations 1, 2, 3, and 4. It obliquely identified them or provided information enabling their identification in past reporting.2Location 1 is an open-air warehouse in Tehran, informally known as the Turquz-Abad site, where Iran likely stored undeclared nuclear material and equipment.3 Location 2 involves questions about Iran’s alleged production of uranium deuteride for a neutron initiator at Lavisan-Shian, the headquarters of its early nuclear weapons program.4 Location 3 is the former location of a pilot uranium conversion facility, which Iran referred to as the “Tehran site” in its own documentation.5 Location 4 is a former high explosive test site used to test highly sensitive components of nuclear weapons, called Marivan.6 The IAEA reports that all four of these locations underwent significant sanitization or leveling. Some of the concealment activities happened recently, while others occurred several years ago.Information about Iran’s alleged activities at the sites came, in part, from an archive of nuclear weapons documentation that Israel seized from a Tehran warehouse in 2018.7 The archive contained significant new information about Iran’s nuclear weapons activities under its late 1990s to 2003 crash nuclear weapons program, codenamed the “Amad Plan.” The IAEA obtained a copy of this information and independently assessed it, finding it legitimate, particularly when combined with information it already had in its possession about Iran’s military nuclear activities. The agency is pursuing inspections at sites where Iran may have produced, used, or stored, undeclared nuclear material or conducted undeclared nuclear-related activities.

Location 1: Turquz-Abad warehouse

The IAEA included in this report its findings about undeclared uranium particles it detected at Turquz-Abad. It previously included such reporting in its separate report on Iran’s compliance with UN Security Council resolution 2231, the resolution associated with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The IAEA reports that it “continued to assess that the explanations provided by Iran for the uranium-rich particles found at location 1 to be not technically credible.”In September 2018, the IAEA obtained information from Israel that the open-air Turquz-Abad warehouse site contained cargo containers which housed undeclared nuclear material and equipment relating to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program.8 The IAEA observed activities consistent with “sanitization of the location.” Commercial satellite imagery acquired and assessed by the Institute indicated that over the summer of 2018, following Israel’s disclosure of the archive seizure, Iran removed the cargo containers and scraped the ground at the Turquz-Abad site, likely in an effort to defeat future IAEA environmental sampling.9Nonetheless, the IAEA requested access to the site and inspected it in February 2019. The results of sampling indicated “the presence of natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin, the composition of which indicated that they might have been produced through uranium conversion activities.” The IAEA also detected “isotopically altered particles of low enriched uranium, with a detectable presence of U-236, and of slightly depleted uranium.” The IAEA added in a footnote that “the compositions of these isotopically altered particles were similar to particles found in Iran in the past, originating from imported centrifuge components.” Pursuant to its investigation into the origins of the particles, the IAEA also took environmental samples at two related, declared locations in Iran.The IAEA assessed Iran’s subsequent explanation for the presence of the undeclared nuclear material to be “unsatisfactory” because it was “not technically credible.” The IAEA concluded, “After 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of nuclear material particles.” The IAEA iterated that it is “deeply concerned that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at this undeclared location and that such nuclear material remains unreported by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”Through exchanges of letters between Iran and the agency, the IAEA reported that “regarding the presence of particles of natural uranium of anthropogenic (man-made) origin and, in relation to the presence of isotopically altered particles, Iran said that ‘no reason or basis had been found for such an assertion.’” Thus, without any reason, Iran essentially denied the IAEA’s findings from environmental sampling. In a letter dated January 25, 2021, the IAEA asked Iran to provide “substantial additional clarifications” within two weeks. Despite the IAEA sending a reminder letter dated February 10, 2021, Iran has not replied to the agency.Location 2: Lavisan-ShianThe IAEA also has questions about “the possible presence in Iran between 2002 and 2003 of natural uranium in the form of a metal disc, with indications of it having undergone drilling and processing, which may not have been included in Iran’s declarations; the origin of this disc; and where such material is currently located.” Earlier IAEA reporting obliquely identified the site where Iran may have carried out this work as Lavisan-Shian, the headquarters of Iran’s early nuclear weapons program in the 1990s under the Physics Research Center (PHRC). The IAEA noted that the site “had undergone extensive sanitization and levelling in 2003 and 2004.” Commercial satellite imagery from that time period indicates that Tehran tore down the buildings, removed the earth, and built a recreational park in its place.10

Iran’s nuclear archive revealed how Iran carried out work on producing uranium deuteride for a neutron initiator. Amad Plan documents sketch out the procedures it used to make uranium deuteride, including drilling into a piece of uranium metal. Included in the documentation are photos of the drilling equipment, located inside a glove box.In relation to its questions concerning location 2, the Agency decided to conduct additional verification activities at a declared facility in Iran where uranium metal had been previously produced (1995-2000) [or early 2002?].11 The uranium metal produced at this facility was declared to the Agency in 2003 and has since been under Agency seal there. The purpose of the verification activities would be to verify whether the natural uranium in the form of a metal disc identified at location 2 is currently stored at this facility.The site the IAEA visited is called the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center in Tehran. The IAEA reported that these additional verification activities in September 2020 were “inconclusive,” and that it requires “an additional verification at the declared facility.” It concluded, “The current location of the natural uranium in the form of a metal disc remains to be clarified.”The IAEA appears, in part at least, to want to conduct another physical verification inventory (PIV) at JHL, a standard procedure under a CSA designed to ensure that the total inventory of material, in this case uranium metal, recorded by Iran is correct. The IAEA would do so by verifying the declared amount of uranium metal and associated uranium waste materials. The IAEA previously conducted a PIV at JHL in August 2011, where it “identified a possible discrepancy of several kilogrammes of natural uranium in the accountancy records”12 related to Iran’s undeclared, secret experiments to convert uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) into uranium metal prior to early 2002.13 However, in 2014, the IAEA reevaluated this information, asserting that “the amount of natural uranium involved was within the uncertainties associated with nuclear material accountancy and related measurement.”14 This 2014 conclusion is likely worth a further reevaluation in light of new information. A new PIV at the JHL and closer scrutiny of its past activities therefore seems warranted. However, a more fruitful approach may be obtaining a resolution from the Board of Governors insisting that Iran promptly produce a complete declaration. Locations 3 and 4: The Tehran Site and the Marivan Site Location 3 is identified in the Nuclear Archive as the Tehran site, a secret Amad Plan pilot uranium conversion site, located near the village of Mobarakiyeh, about 75 kilometers southeast of Tehran.15 According to the IAEA report, this location is of concern because it involves “the possible use or storage of nuclear material and/or conducting of nuclear-related activities, including research and development activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle. This location may have been used for the processing and conversion of uranium ore including fluorination in 2003. This location also underwent significant changes in 2004, including the demolition of most buildings.” Fluorination of uranium usually refers to the production of uranium hexafluoride.Location 4 is the secret Marivan site, near Abadeh. 16 According to the IAEA report, this site involved “the possible use and storage of nuclear material where outdoor, conventional explosive testing may have taken place in 2003, including in relation to testing of shielding in preparation for the use of neutron detectors.” The IAEA added, “From July 2019 onwards, the Agency observed activities consistent with efforts to sanitize part of the location.”The IAEA’s findings about sanitization and concealment activities at these two sites are supported by satellite imagery independently analyzed by the Institute.After the IAEA notified Iran of its need for access to these two sites, Iran refused to grant the request. In response to Iran’s intransigence, the Board of Governors passed a resolution on June 19, 2020, calling on Iran, to “fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.”17After delaying for several more months, Iran finally allowed the IAEA to access these two sites and take environmental samples in August and September 2020.The analytical results of the environmental samples taken at locations 3 and 4 indicated the presence of anthropogenic uranium particles that required explanation by Iran. On 14 January 2021, the Agency conveyed to Iran in separate letters the results of the analysis and related Agency questions in connection with locations 3 and 4. Iran has yet to provide answers to the Agency’s related questions.During a visit to Tehran from February 20-21, 2021, IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi registered its concern with Iran about “the lack of progress in clarifying the safeguards issues outlined above” and called on it to “resolve these issues without further delay.”
[1] Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).2. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker, “Iran Defies the International Atomic Energy Agency: the IAEA’s Latest Iran Safeguards Report,” Institute for Science and International Security, June 10, 2020, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/iran-defies-the-international-atomic-energy-agency/8#fn6

3. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Olli Heinonen, and Frank Pabian, “Presence of Undeclared Natural Uranium at the Turquz-Abad Nuclear Weaponization Storage Location,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 20, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/presence-of-undeclared-natural-uranium-at-the-turquz-abad-nuclear-weaponiza 4. “Neutron Source: Iran’s Uranium Deuteride Neutron Initiator,” Institute for Science and International Security, May 13, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/neutron-source-irans-uranium-deuteride-neutron-initiator-1/ 5.David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian, “The Amad Plan Pilot Uranium Conversion Site, Which Iran Denies Ever Existed,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 9, 2020, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/the-amad-plan-pilot-uranium-conversion-site/8 6. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian, “Abadeh is Marivan: A Key, Former Secret Nuclear Weapons Development Test Site,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 18, 2020, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/abadeh-is-marivan-irans-former-secret-nuclear-weapons-development-test-site 7.David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman, “How Israel, in Dark of Night, Torched its Way to Iran’s Nuclear Secrets,” The New York Times, July 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/us/politics/iran-israel-mossad-nuclear.html Israel reportedly provided the IAEA with separate information about the Turquz-Abad warehouse that came from intelligence monitoring. See: “Israel Accuses Iran of Having Secret Atomic Warehouse Near Tehran,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 28, 2018, https://www.rferl.org/a/israeli-prime-minister-netanyahu-accuses-iran-having-secret-atomic-warehouse-outside-tehran/29514107.html8. John Irish and Arshad Mohammed, “Netanyahu, in U.N. Speech, Claims Secret Iranian Nuclear Site,” Reuters, September 27, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-israel-iran/netanyahu-in-un-speech-claims-secret-iranian-nuclear-site-idUSKCN1M72FZ 9.David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Olli Heinonen, and Frank Pabian, “Presence of Undeclared Natural Uranium at the Turquz-Abad Nuclear Weaponization Storage Location,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 20, 2019, https://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/presence-of-undeclared-natural-uranium-at-the-turquz-abad-nuclear-weaponiza 10. David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Stricker, “The Physics Research Center and Iran’s Parallel Military Nuclear Program,” Institute for Science and International Security, February 23, 2012https://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/PHRC_report_23February2012.pdf

Babylon the Great strikes ‘Iranian-backed militant’ site

US strikes ‘Iranian-backed militant’ site in Syria: Pentagon

26/02/2021 – 02:22

A rocket attack on a military complex inside Arbil airport that hosts foreign troops deployed as part of a US-led coalition caused serious damage – KURDISTAN 24 CHANNEL/AFP/File

Washington (AFP)

The US military launched an airstrike on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia Thursday, in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq, the Pentagon said.

“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” said spokesman John Kirby in a statement.

These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he said.

The US military did not say whether there were any casualties in Thursday’s attack.

Kirby said the target was a border control point used by Iranian-backed armed Iraqi groups including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada.

It followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by US and coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group.

One of those strikes, on a military complex in the Kurdish region’s capital Arbil on February 15, killed a civilian and a foreign contractor working with coalition forces, and injured several US contractors and a soldier.

The attacks in Iraq by groups believed operating under Iran’s direction had laid down a challenge to the new Biden administration just as it opened a door to resumed negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

The Biden administration says it wants to revive the 2015 accord designed to freeze Iran’s nuclear development.

But it also sees Tehran as a continuing security threat across the Middle East.

Kirby called Thursday’s strikes “proportionate” and said it “was conducted together with diplomatic measures,” including consultation with US partners in the anti-IS coalition.

But he also said that it was designed to de-escalate the situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.

The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel,” he said.

© 2021 AFP

Russia’s New Doomsday Nuke: Daniel 7

New Details of Russian Belgorod ‘Doomsday’ Submarine Revealed

H I SuttonFebruary 25, 2021 3:26 PM

Illustration of Belgorod submarine. H I Sutton Image used with permission

Russia’s latest super-sized submarine, Belgorod, has been a conundrum for interested observers. While its existence is far from secret, Moscow has gone to great pains to keep certain key details out of the public domain. While navies traditionally hide the screw, or propeller, from the cameras, in Belgorod’s case the reverse was true: the screws were on display at the 2019 launch ceremony, but no photographs of the forward section were ever published.

Belgorod’s secret is its arrangement of the primary weapon system: a new class of nuclear-tipped torpedos. Russian state media Izvestia reported on Feb. 11 that Belgorod is being prepared for tests with the new weapon called Poseidon, a massive nuclear torpedo which is shot forward out of the front of the submarine.

The Izvestia article’s timing matches fresh satellite imagery of the submarine in the northern Russian submarine base in Severodvinsk, which may show part of the tests.

In the absence of official photographs, commercial satellite imagery has become a primary source of information. Though the long Arctic nights and thick clouds have limited access to new imagery for many months, now as the Arctic winter is waning, commercial imagery satellites are once again more active over Severodvinsk.

On Feb. 10, an Airbus satellite took a high-resolution image of the harbor. Moored next to the quay is Belgorod with its torpedo tube doors appearing to be open. These tubes are not for ordinary torpedoes but rather the Poseidon nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed torpedo. It is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s so-called wonder weapons, together with hypersonic missiles and a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

Poseidon Torpedo. Russian Defense Ministry Photo

The satellite imagery clearly shows two large openings in the bow. Each opening is roughly six feet (two meters) across, approximately three times the diameter of the openings for regular 21-inch (533mm) torpedoes. This is because the Poseidon weapon is about 20 to 30 times the size of a traditional heavyweight torpedo.

Revealed in 2015, the school-bus sized torpedo is a strategic weapon that is designed to slip under the U.S. ballistic missile defense network. The weapon is designed to “destroy important economic installations of the enemy in coastal areas and cause guaranteed devastating damage to the country’s territory by creating wide areas of radioactive contamination, rendering them unusable for military, economic or other activity for a long time,” according to a 2015 translation of the initial document by the BBC.

Previous reports indicate that Belgorod will be armed with six Poseidons. Being so large and nuclear powered, these are likely carried externally to the main pressure hull, so it is unclear whether all six tubes will have their own shutter doors or if they will be able to cycle through the two shutters seen in the satellite images.

One takeaway from the images is Belgorod probably has a forward hull between the two open shutter doors. This could allow regular torpedo tubes to be mounted in the bow, shooting over top of the sonar.

Although some reporting on the Poseidon implies Belgorod will be conducting test launches imminently, this is unlikely. It’s unclear if the submarine has ever conducted submergence testing, and just today the TASS Russian news agency reported the submarine is preparing to sail to sea for the first time.

The tests that the Izvestia article referenced are likely in-port mating and mechanical checks between the submarine and the weapon, which matches the satellite imagery showing the outer shutters open. This would likely be conducted with inert surrogate rounds where possible, given the safety implications of testing a nuclear-powered weapon with what is likely a minimally shielded reactor at the pier.

While the public image of Belgorod is becoming clearer, the particulars of the new Russian boat are still shrouded in mystery. Nope

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Grow: Revelation 8:4

UN: Iran increasing uranium enrichment purity, quantities

International inspections of its nuclear facilities being restricted

The UN’s atomic watchdog says its inspectors have confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium up to 20 per cent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels. It’s the latest in a string of violations of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press Tuesday that as of February 16, Iran had added 17.6 kg (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20 per cent to its stockpile.

Overall, it increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to 2,967.8 kg (6,542.9 pounds), up from 2,442.9 kg (5,385.7 pounds) reported on November 2.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the US, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kg (447 pounds). It also allows enrichment only up to 3.67 per cent.

Iran officially started restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities, state TV reported on Tuesday, a bid to pressure European countries and US President Joe Biden’s administration to lift crippling economic sanctions and restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

World powers slammed the restrictions as a “dangerous” move.

The state TV report gave little detail beyond confirming that Iran had made good on its threat to reduce cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

Iran’s move to limit international inspections underscores the daunting task facing Biden as he seeks to reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US unilaterally out of the deal in 2018, leaving Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia struggling to keep it alive.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was the most significant pact between Iran and major world powers since its 1979 Islamic revolution, and Germany, France and Britain stressed their commitment Tuesday to preserving it, urging Iran to “stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency.” “The E3 are united in underlining the dangerous nature of this decision,” the European powers said in a statement. “It will significantly constrain the IAEA’s access to sites and to safeguards-relevant information.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a new law had gone into effect Tuesday morning, under which Iran will no longer share surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the UN agency.

“We never gave them live video, but (recordings) were given daily and weekly,” Zarif said of the IAEA’s access to information recorded by camera monitors. “The tape recording of our (nuclear) programme will be kept in Iran.” The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Tehran’s civilian nuclear agency, has promised to preserve the tapes for three months, then hand them over to the IAEA — but only if granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the tapes, narrowing the window for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Since Trump pulled the US. out of the JCPOA, Iran has gradually been violating its restrictions to put pressures on the remaining nations to come up with economic incentives to offset crippling American sanctions.

Among other things, the country has started enriching uranium up to 20 per cent purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels, and well above the purity allowed under the JCPOA. It has also been spinning advanced centrifuges, producing uranium metal and stockpiling more uranium than allowed.

Zarif stressed in a tweet on Tuesday that Iran’s new limits on nuclear inspections and other violations of the pact are reversible, insisting that the US move first to revive the deal.

In a show of defiance, Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei outlined further developments in Iran’s nuclear programme on Tuesday.

Over the last three weeks, he told presspersons, Iran has installed and started feeding gas into an additional 148 high-tech IR2-m centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear enrichment facility and its fortified nuclear complex at Fordo, bringing the total number of centrifuges to up to 492.

Another set of 492 centrifuges will be installed in the coming month, he said.

The Axis of Resistance Outside the Temple Walls Is Breaking Up: Revelation 11

The Axis of Resistance to Israel Is Breaking Up

Syria has turned against Hamas, and Iran’s efforts to mediate aren’t working.

Anchal Vohra

A cutout of an Israeli soldier is seen behind signs pointing out distances to different cities at an army post in Mount Bental in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on Nov. 28, 2020. JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images

Yarmouk, once described as the capital of the Palestinian diaspora, was among the most ferociously bombed neighborhoods in the Syrian conflict. Home to 160,000 Palestinian Syrians before the civil war, the Damascus refugee camp-turned-suburb now lies in ruins and is nearly empty. The destruction of the camp, seen as a symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israel outside the occupied territories, has deprived Palestinians of their homes—and hope.

Yarmouk’s devastation, however, also tells the tale of Iran’s broken axis of resistance to Israel. It once comprised Hezbollah, Hamas, and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian movement and militia, ignored Assad’s calls for support and instead backed the rebels in the Syrian conflict, the resistance broke apart. This weakened Tehran’s position in the region, as well as limiting its leverage in possible future talks with the United States.

Since 1979, Shiite-majority Iran has presented itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause with the aim of brandishing its credentials as a nonsectarian Islamic power worthy of leading a Sunni-dominated Muslim world. Its alliance with a Sunni militia, Hamas, continues to be important to its narrative. It started to rebuild its axis in 2017 as a change in Hamas’s leadership opened the door to reconciliation talks. To reunite Hamas and the Syrian regime, Iran deployed Hezbollah, the Lebanese arm of the resistance, which has held a series of meetings to facilitate the restoration of ties between the former allies. Palestinian activists in Syria, however, doubt that an unforgiving Assad will agree to reconcile with Hamas. Some instead point to possible Russian mediation between Syria and Israel as a sign of some sort of recalibration of that supposedly hostile relationship instead.

Most of the people of the Yarmouk camp who both wanted a free Palestine and a repression-free Syria fear that the regime has no intentions to rehabilitate them and has deliberately imposed obstacles in the way of their returning. Um Ridwan was a baby when her family was forced to escape the former Mandatory Palestine in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, seeking refuge in Yarmouk. Yarmouk was her home from then on, but the relentless bombing of her neighborhood by the regime in battles with the rebels, who included a range of groups from anti-regime Palestinians to the Islamic State, changed the face of it. Now, she can barely recognize it. “It’s all rubble,” she said.

In December 2020, she finally received the required permissions from the Syrian regime to visit her home but found nothing except crumbling walls. “Everything in our house was looted: doors, windows, sinks, even electrical wires in the walls and tiles on the floors had been stolen,” she told Foreign Policy from rented accommodation in Damascus where she has been living. “There is no electricity, no clinics, no schools, there is nothing. We were told the regime is fixing Yarmouk, but it hasn’t.”

It has been almost three years since the regime reclaimed Yarmouk, but it has not even cleared the debris inside the buildings, 60 percent of which were destroyed in the bombardment. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians, just 604 families have been approved by the regime to return as of last month. Palestinian activists say that these are the families of those who actively supported the regime, not those who opposed it or remained neutral. They accuse the regime of deliberately letting the rebels take over Yarmouk with the intention of isolating them and bombing the camp and then, in the postwar phase, of trying to steal the properties of its original inhabitants.

Foreign Policy spoke to several Palestinian Syrians with homes in Yarmouk who said that the regime wanted only supporters to return, no one else. The regime has demanded residents provide original documents proving ownership, which many may have lost in the chaos of war, and security clearance from the dreaded intelligence services so the regime can screen them for past allegiances. Other families may lose their homes if they fall on streets that have been allocated for redevelopment.

Palestinian Syrians, too, wanted an end to corruption and longed for better lives. They, too, participated in protests, but officially the various groups maintained neutrality in the conflict. However, Yarmouk grabbed attention when the people provided refuge to the internally displaced from elsewhere in the country and offered logistical support and humanitarian services to the rebels of the Free Syrian Army. Palestinian Syrians could not remain outside a conflict that was happening all around them for long.

While some supported the regime, Hamas backed the rebels. The group had been formed in 1987 as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab organization propagating political Islam, whose Syrian members were now fighting the Assad regime. Back in 2012, Hamas was also inspired by the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in placing their man, Mohamed Morsi, as president of Egypt, and hoped to cash in on the triumph of its parent organization by siding with them on the Syrian battlefield. Hamas’s leaders left Damascus for Qatar, a patron of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its breakaway fighters formed Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, which trained Syrian rebels to build tunnels and make rockets. They fought alongside the rebels against the regime on the Yarmouk front line and even against their old ally Hezbollah in the Syrian town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. Assad accused Hamas of supporting the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, then called the Nusra Front, while Hezbollah chastised it for using Iranian tunnel technology against the axis.

Soon enough, though, Hamas lost the gamble. Morsi was ousted in a coup in July 2013, and in Syria, too, they were eventually defeated by Assad and his Russian allies. But the Palestinians’ protests and Hamas’s rejection of Assad cost the community dearly. Assad’s intelligence services imprisoned thousands of Palestinians it suspected of sympathizing with the Syrian rebels, or those who in any way, howsoever remotely, advocated political Islam. They were seen as a threat by the regime, especially those from Yarmouk.

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One activist who subsequently moved to the United Kingdom, speaking to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity, said that fellow Palestinian Syrians were arrested if they happened to be from Yarmouk. “Bashar al-Assad considered Hamas’s refusal to support him as a stab in the back and perceived the whole community as unwanted guests in Syria,” the activist said. “Therefore the revenge was very extreme. They arrested anyone from Yarmouk, but it wasn’t limited to one camp. They chased Palestinians everywhere.”

Ahmad Hosein, the CEO of a U.K.-based monitor called Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, said anyone who did not support the regime was punished. “The regime did punish Hamas and its ‘official’ cadres for Hamas’s position toward the regime,” Hosein said. “But as for punishing the Palestinians as a community, I would say that every Palestinian individual who did not stand by the regime, regardless of their affiliation, was punished in one way or another.”

Iranian forces aided Assad in committing these crimes, but it still wanted to rebuild the axis. Over the last two years, Hezbollah’s head Hassan Nasrallah has met with Hamas’s leaders several times. Some of these leaders have also made conciliatory remarks about Syria’s previous largesse, which gave the refugees almost the same status as its own citizens—even though that decision predated the Baathist regime. A delegation from Hamas visited Damascus in 2019 and met with regime officials, but nothing came of it.

While Iran reeled under U.S. President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, the United Arab Emirates and three other Arab countries signed normalization deals with Israel. That should give further motive to Iran and Hezbollah to keep making an effort to revive the broken axis. But in an interview Nasrallah gave in late December 2020 he hardly seemed optimistic. “This relationship must be restored, but it will take some time,” he said.

There is perhaps too much bad blood between Assad and Hamas to mend fences for the time being. The Syrian regime was left seething when Hamas, a group that they supported over Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization since the ’80s, shunned it in preference for its own Islamist brothers. Besides, analysts say, Assad’s strong relationship with Russia and growing ties with the UAE, both of which want Syria to come to terms with Israel, has impacted the regime’s thinking. Rami al-Sayed, a former human rights activist from the Yarmouk camp, said that the regime had always been insincere about the Palestinian cause and deployed it to achieve its hegemonic ambitions in the Levant. Now, he said, it seemed more interested in cracking a deal to ensure its survival. “We have seen several deals recently, such as when Russia dug graves in Yarmouk to find to Israeli soldiers. Now we have heard that Israel is buying Russia’s coronavirus vaccine for Syrians,” he said. “This comes in parallel with the normalization wave between Israel and the Arab countries. It’s not impossible we will see a formal normalization between the regime and Israel very soon.”

Anchal Vohra is a Beirut-based columnist for Foreign Policy and a freelance TV correspondent and commentator on the Middle East. Twitter: @anchalvohra

Israeli Forces Arrest Hamas Members outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli Forces Arrest Hamas Members in West Bank ahead of Palestinian Elections

February 23, 2021

Mustafa Al-Shunnar, 60, is detained by Israeli forces in an overnight raid in occupied West Bank. (Photo: via Twitter)

At least 20 Palestinians, including Hamas officials, have been detained by Israeli forces in overnight raids in the occupied West Bank, sources reported on Monday.

Mustafa Al-Shunnar, 60, and Omar Abdul-Rahim al-Hanbali, 50, were two Hamas members identified among those arrested, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Muntasir Al-Shunnar – the son of the Hamas official who is also a professor at the An-Najah National University in Nablus – confirmed his father’s arrest.

“Israeli forces raided his home, destroyed some belongings and questioned my father before arresting him,” Shunar told The New Arab’s Arabic language site, adding that his father suffers from a number of health issues that require medical attention.

Al-Shunnar had previously been detained by the Israeli military.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has earlier warned of Israeli plans to carry out mass arrests ahead of planned Palestinian elections later this year, according to local reports.

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Last month, senior Hamas members Hatem Naji Amr and Omar Barghouthi (not the detained Palestinian activist of the same name) told Anadolu Agency that they were threatened by the Israeli intelligence of imprisonment if they run in the upcoming elections.

Palestinians are scheduled to vote in the legislative elections on May 22, presidential polls on July 31 and the National Council on August 31.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)