1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New 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)

Antichrist allows Pope to visit ‘suffering’ Christian community

Pope’s Iraq trip brings him close to ‘suffering’ Christian community

Warda said it was “historical and courageous” for the pope to visit Iraq amidst security threats and the COVID-19 pandemic.

 March 1 2021   11:19

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Basha Matti Warda speaks during an interview with Kurdistan 24 (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region will be his chance to be close to the suffering Christians of the region, Basha Matti Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil has told Kurdistan 24.

The Roman Catholic leader is planning to visit Iraq and the Kurdistan Region from March 5-8 to show solidarity to a Christian community that has been decimated by ongoing wars since 2003 and attacks from jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State that target minorities, including Christians and Yezidis (Ezidis).

Warda said it was “historical and courageous” for the pope to visit Iraq amidst security threats and the COVID-19 pandemic. He predicted it will not be easy for Francis and his delegation but “it’s needed and so he will make it.”

ISIS entered Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014 and eventually occupied a large territory that included Christian-populated areas in the Nineveh plains. Around 200,000 were displaced and many fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

The archbishop said preparations for the pope’s historic visit began two weeks ago. “We are very grateful for the government of Kurdistan that they put everything needed to help to make this successful,” he told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview in the capital’s predominately-Christian Ankawa suburb. “Of course, Erbil will have the biggest event, which is the final Mass.”

Francis will hold a final Mass, generally an important milestone in a pope’s trip abroad, in Erbil’s Franso Hariri Stadium on March 7 before departing for Rome. Organizers have limited attendance to no more than 10,000 people because of COVID-19 concerns.

Decline of Christians in Iraq

“The number of Christians has started declining since 2003,” Warda said. “But we cannot deny the fact also that there are certain areas in the country that welcomed the Christians, like Kurdistan.”

He added that ISIS attacks had devastating results on the Christian community. “But thank God with the work and contribution of all we were able to maintain 8,000 families and keep them safe here in Erbil.” 

In 2019, the archbishop told the BBC that the Christian community had dwindled by 83 percent, from around 1.5 million to just 250,000.  

The US State Department’s most recent annual report on religious freedom estimated that between 10 and 22 Christian families are leaving Iraq and the Kurdistan Region every month, many driven out by discrimination and threats of violence.

Some Christians returned to the Nineveh plains in 2016 and 2017, Warda said. However, there are still 2,600 Christian families living in the Kurdistan Region that were unable to return to Mosul and “need help to rebuild their houses” there, as well as programs to help them rebuild their livelihoods.

The Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani told France 24 in a recent interview that he hopes the pope’s visit will prompt more international support for refugees, including Christians who have been displaced to the Kurdistan region.

Solving problems for the Christian community

The archbishop underlined that the pope’s visit will highlight the importance for politicians to work together to “maintain the diversity of the Iraqi population.”

“This is not a typical everyday story, especially if you consider that His Holiness Pope [John Paul II] wanted to make this trip in the year 2000, but he couldn’t,” Warda said.

In 2019, Pope Francis said he would embark on his first trip to Iraqi the following year, but it was postponed due to regional tensions and the global coronavirus pandemic. According to Warda, who has met the pope several times, it was the pontiff’s wish to visit Iraq.

“He always mentioned that he wanted to visit this country and he wants to be close to the suffering of the people of Iraq,” Warda said.

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Erbil’s Chaldean Archbishop talks to K24 about the upcoming Pope visit to Iraq

However, he added that the pope will not be able to solve issues such as the confiscation of Christian homes by militias and influential families in Iraq.

Earlier this month the Vatican News service reported that 38 illegally expropriated houses and land in Iraq were returned to Christian owners after a campaign by the influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Francis is scheduled to meet top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani in the city of Najaf on March 6.

Warda stressed that resolving the Christian community’s problems “is the responsibility of the Iraqi government because Christians, first and foremost, are citizens of Iraq, and they have rights as citizens of Iraq.”

“So his holiness, when he comes is just [with] a message of peace and support, that’s all,” Warda added. “He is coming for the Christians as a pastor, as a father, as a shepherd, but when it comes to the rights of [Christians] this is the responsibility of the Iraqi government.”

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly

The China Nuclear Horn Prepares for Nuclear War: Daniel 7

China said to speed up move to more survivable nuclear force

By ROBERT BURNS , Associated Press

March 01, 2021 – 5:35 AM

WASHINGTON — China appears to be moving faster toward a capability to launch its newer nuclear missiles from underground silos, possibly to improve its ability to respond promptly to a nuclear attack, according to an American expert who analyzed satellite images of recent construction at a missile training area.

Hans Kristensen, a longtime watcher of U.S., Russian and Chinese nuclear forces, said the imagery suggests that China is seeking to counter what it may view as a growing threat from the United States. The U.S. in recent years has pointed to China’s nuclear modernization as a key justification for investing hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming two decades to build an all-new U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Biden strikes on Syrian sites may threaten the Iran nuclear deal

Biden strikes Syrian sites: What impact on Iraq and Iran nuclear deal?

Ellen Laipson

| The Daily Star

In its sixth week in office, the Biden administration has already used military force in the Middle East. Seven bombs were dropped on a group of buildings in Syria associated with pro-Iran Shiite militias, allegedly responsible for a recent attack on a US and coalition base outside Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The attack has been characterized as carefully calibrated; the president chose one of the less aggressive options presented to him, with the goal of keeping the damage inflicted proportional to the attacks that triggered the action.

Over the past year, Shiite militias have lobbed rockets against the large US Embassy compound in Baghdad, inflicting property damage but no significant casualties. The February Irbil attack, which wounded several and killed one non-US-citizen contractor, appeared to be a continuation of a pattern. In response, the US targeted a compound of multiple buildings used by several Shiite militias to support their operations in Iraq. US defense officials explained that the operation was defensive in nature, to protect US and allied personnel, and “our Iraqi partners.

This formulation is an interesting departure from the approach of the Trump administration, which scolded and bullied the Iraqi government when such attacks occurred, threatening in 2020 to close the US Embassy in Baghdad if the Iraqi security forces could not protect Americans present in the country. Biden is sending a very different signal, that the US presence in Iraq is for the shared mission of preventing terrorism from Daesh (ISIS) or other extremists, and building greater capacity and stability in Iraq.

The choice of a facility in Syria and the vague attribution to the Irbil attack could generate criticism in coming days. The compound the US bombed was very close to the border of Iraq, southwest of Irbil, but arguably could be seen as an offensive act against a state that did not cause the original harm.

While the US may not feel obliged to follow diplomatic protocols related to the Syrian regime, it was Russia, Syria’s main security partner, which reacted badly to the attack, complaining that the US gave Moscow only an hour’s notice before sending fighter aircraft into the territory that Russia helps control. In addition, US officials have said that Iraq will investigate the Irbil attack to determine the perpetrators, yet the US believed it had sufficient intelligence to select the target and carry out the raid. The group that actually claimed responsibility, Awliya Al-Dam, or Guardians of the Blood, is one of several offshoots of the main Shiite militia Kataeb Hezbollah.

Some early commentators have questioned whether this sequence of events could derail the nascent pas de deux between Biden and Iran over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal. They worry that any escalation of tensions between the US and Iranian proxies will undermine or at least slow down the diplomatic efforts to return to full compliance with the 2015 JCPOA. Both Washington and Tehran will need to take clear steps to restore the status of the agreement, but there is much jockeying about sequencing and reciprocity.

For the US, reversing Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to leave the agreement is complicated by the legalities of US sanctions policies, and by the conviction that it is Iran that has to demonstrate its continued commitment to the terms of the agreement. Iran, for its part, has been playing hard ball, declaring that it cannot reverse its recent enrichment activities that violate its JCPOA obligations until the US removes all sanctions. The Biden administration has taken one tentative step, by agreeing to participate in an EU-hosted meeting with all the JCPOA signatories. Iran has not yet signaled its intention to attend such a meeting.

One could argue that the specific issue of defending US and coalition bases and facilities in Iraq is quite separate from diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear activities. In addition, the explicit demonstration by the new president of his willingness to use force could send an important signal to Iran. During the Obama administration, some interpreted the failure of the US to follow through on its tough rhetoric on the Syrian civil war as evidence that achieving a diplomatic success with Iran was the paramount American interest. Staying out of Syria was seen as avoiding a source of tension with Iran that could hurt the nuclear talks.

That perception is probably off the mark; Obama had made some strategic choices about Syria that were more complicated than just considering their impact on Iran. But the Biden team has now avoided such ambiguity. It will protect and defend its basic interests in the region, while working the nuclear negotiations on their own merits.

If Iran wanted to signal back to Washington, it could rein in the militia or take other steps to try to disavow these particular anti-American actions. By some accounts, Iran may not be in complete control of the Shiite militia. While the groups have surely benefitted from Iranian political, military and financial support, they operate in an Iraqi context. Past Iraqi political leaders have used and misused these militias in power struggles that were not necessarily part of a master plan from Tehran. 

At times, the US and Iran have found common ground in support of Iraq. They worked in parallel to defeat Daesh’s occupation of Mosul and other territories in northern Iraq. They have sometimes indirectly found ways to signal their preferences for the same candidates in past protracted negotiations over government formation after elections in Iraq. Both parties can be pragmatic when it comes to Iraq.

But when it comes to US-Iran relations, put your money on the more pessimistic interpretation. Iran is already prickly about Biden’s overtures, and faces presidential elections in June. The brutal experience with Trump and the volatile cycles in US presidential politics have made Iran more cynical about engaging Washington. And the January 2020 US assassination of Qasem Soleimani on Iraqi soil may not have been avenged, in Iran’s view. The activities of the Iraqi Shiite militias may retain considerable value to Iran in this ongoing asymmetric struggle.

Ellen Laipson, a former vice chair of the US’s National Intelligence Council, is currently director of the international security program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Virginia. She is a former president and CEO of the Stimson Center in Washington. The Daily star publishes this commentary in collaboration with Syndication Bureau.

Israel strikes back at the Iranian Horn

Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria, responds to ship attack – report

By REUTERS, JERUSALEM POST STAFF   MARCH 1, 2021 13:48

Smoke and flames rise over the Syrian border town of Kobani after an airstrike, October 20, 2014

(photo credit: REUTERS)

The strikes on Sunday night come just days after an Israeli-owned commercial vessel was attacked by mines in the Gulf of Oman.

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Israel reportedly bombed Iranian targets near Damascus in Syria late Sunday night leading to speculation that the airstrikes were in response to what is believed to be an Iranian attack on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last Thursday.   

The Syrian army said on Sunday evening that an Israeli airstrike targeted parts of southern Damascus in escalating attacks that regional intelligence sources say target Iran-linked assets.

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כאן חדשות

@kann_news

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Feb 28, 2021

דיווחים בסוריה: ישראל תקפה באזור דמשק, פיצוצים נשמעו

@kaisos1987

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התקיפה המיוחסת לישראל בדמשק: תגובה לפיצוץ הספינה בידי איראן. המטרות שהותקפו הן איראניות. תיעוד: פעילות מערכת ההגנה האווירית הסורית

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1:32 PM · Feb 28, 2021

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A Syrian Army statement said the attack came from the Golan Heights and that it had downed most of the missiles, in the second such strike in less than a month on the outskirts of the capital.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the report.

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The strikes on Sunday night come just days after an Israeli-owned commercial vessel was attacked by mines in the Gulf of Oman.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi blame the attack on Iran, although Iran has not officially taken responsibility.

On Sunday morning, an analysis in the Iranian-regime controlled Kayhan daily, tied to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, referred to the attack on the Israeli vessel as a response to strikes on Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq.

The analysis stated that there is “no trace” of the identity of the attackers and claimed that the vessel was flown under the flag of another country. The paper additionally claimed that the ship was a military vessel spying in the Persian Gulf and not a commercial vessel.

The Iranian analysis concluded that the ship was “probably ambushed by one of the branches of the Axis of Resistance,” but did not go as far as explicitly stating that Iran or one of its proxies was responsible for the incident.

While Israeli media reported that the strikes on Sunday night were an Israeli response to the attack on the ship, no official government or military statement was made on the matter. In the past, the IDF has often confirmed when it responded to specific attacks.

The strikes also come just days after the US targeted Iranian sites in eastern Syria, killing at least one militant and wounding several others, in response to a rocket strike blamed on pro-Iranian militias on a US military base at Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq on February 15 in which a non-American contractor was killed, as well as a series of additional rocket attacks on other locations in Iraq with US forces, according to Reuters.

The last alleged Israeli strikes to target the Damascus area were reported on February 15, reportedly targeting equipment belong to Iranian and pro-Iranian forces near the Damascus International Airport, as well as other targets.

The strikes are the seventh in the past two months, with strikes attributed to Israel reported in eastern, southern and Western Syria in January and earlier in February.

Israel has struck a wider range of targets than usual since the start of the year, including a major strike on Iranian-linked strongholds further east near the Iraqi border.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday said Israel was taking action “almost weekly” to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Regional intelligence sources were quoted in the media saying that Iran’s Quds Force and militias it backs, whose presence has spread in Syria in recent years, have a strong presence in the Sayeda Zainab neighborhood of southern Damascus where Iranian backed militias have a string of underground bases.

Israel has regularly attacked what it says are Iranian-linked targets in Syria in recent years, and stepped up such strikes this year in what Western intelligence sources describe as a shadow war to reduce Iran’s influence.

Kochavi said in December Israel had struck over 500 targets in 2020.

Tensions remain high in the region in the aftermath of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh just east of Tehran, which Iran blames on Israel, and the one-year anniversary of the US assassination of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January. Israel’s northern border remains tense as well due to continued threats by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist organization to carry out a revenge attack against Israel in response to the death of a Hezbollah militant in Damascus in July in an airstrike blamed on Israel.

Concerns surrounding the Biden administration’s intent to return to the nuclear deal with Iran have also been raised in recent weeks, with Kochavi stating last month that he had ordered operational plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program to be ready if necessary.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

Iran Enriches More Uranium: Daniel 8

Iran enriching uranium in second set of centrifuges in Natanz: IAEA

Updated 03 February 2021 Arab News February 02, 2021 16:33

JEDDAH: Iran has again increased enrichment of uranium at its Natanz underground nuclear plant, UN atomic watchdog inspectors reported on Tuesday.

And Tehran boasted that it now had two clusters of advanced centrifuges running at the site that would almost quadruple its ability to produce fissile material.

“Thanks to our diligent nuclear scientists, two cascades of 348 IR2m centrifuges with almost four times the capacity of IR1 are now running successfully in Natanz,” said Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  “Installation of two cascades of IR6 centrifuges has also been started in Fordow. There’s more to come soon.”

The increased enrichment is the largest breach so far of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, since when Iran has gradually ramped up its violations of the accord’s terms.

Tehran has started enriching uranium to higher purity, returning to the 20 percent it achieved before the deal from a previous maximum of 4.5 percent. The deal sets a limit of 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent required to build a weapons.

Under the agreement, Iran can refine uranium only at Natanz, with first-generation IR1 centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feedstock. Last year it began enriching there with a cluster of much more efficient IR2m machines and in December said it would install three more.

“Iran has completed the installation of one of these three cascades, containing 174 IR2m centrifuges, and on Jan. 30 it began feeding the cascade with UF6,” the IAEA said on Tuesday.

The agency later confirmed that enrichment had begun with the second cascade.

The increased uranium enrichment ramps up pressure on the new administration in Washington over the future of the JCPOA. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said the US would return to compliance with the deal if Iran did too, but the US also wants a “longer and stronger” agreement that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile program and other issues.

The Trump administration had “seriously damaged Iran’s nuclear project,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday. “In terms of enrichment, they are in a situation of breaking out in around half a year,” he said. “As for nuclear weaponry, the range is around one or two years.”

Iran Blows Up Israeli Ship

Israel says initial assessment is Iran behind explosion on its ship

February 28, 2021

JERUSALEM: Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday his “initial assessment” was that Iran was responsible for an explosion on an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman.

The ship, a vehicle-carrier named MV Helios Ray, suffered an explosion between Thursday and Friday morning. A US defence official in Washington said the blast left holes above the waterline on both sides of the hull. The cause was not immediately clear and no casualties were reported.

“Iran is looking to hit Israeli infrastructure and Israeli citizens,” Gantz told the public broadcaster Kan. “The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the notion, the assessment, that it is the Iranians.”

“Right now, at an initial assessment level, given the proximity and the context – that is my assessment,” Gantz said, adding a deeper investigation still had to be carried out.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials.

The ship is owned by a Tel Aviv company called Ray Shipping through a company registered in the Isle of Man, according to a UN shipping database.

Israeli Channel 13 News said defence officials believed the Iranian navy had launched a precision strike to avoid casualties, firing two missiles at a part of the ship that if damaged would not have sunk the vessel.

It added an Israeli delegation was en route to Dubai, where the ship was docked, to investigate.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the report.

Kan named the owner as Rami Ungar and quoted him on Friday as saying: “The damage is two holes, diameter approximately 1.5 metres, but it is not yet clear to us if this was caused by missile fire or mines that were attached to the ship.”

Iran said in November it would make a “calculated” response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, which it blamed on Israel.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-president Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

Washington has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, notably on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019. Iran has denied carrying out those attacks.