Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

The Nuclear Triangle Leading to the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Disentangling the Nuclear Triangle

One of the world’s nuclear flashpoints saw a sudden détente when India and China agreed to disengagement at the LAC (Line of Actual Control) on February 17 and India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire on the LoC (Line of Control) eight days later, on February 25. A look at the compulsions that drive these three countries, locked ina two-against-one confrontation in South Asia, and their own national issues they must deal with.

Sandeep Unnithan

PAKISTAN’S COMPULSIONS

On the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) grey list for failure to do enough to curb terror funding; has sustained losses worth $38 billion (Rs 2.77 lakh crore) since 2008

Economy in the doldrums, dealing with a debt crisis and rising inflation. External debt and liabilities amounted to over $113 billion (Rs 8.24 lakh crore) in 2020. Creditors like Saudi Arabia knocking on its door.

Would like to focus on Afghanistan, where it is a part of the peace process with the US and Taliban, to shed its image of a nation associated with terror. The US troops have promised to pull out by May 1 if conditions are met.

On Feb. 3, Pakistan army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said, “It is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions,” signalling that the powerful military is supportive of the peace process with India.

CHINA’S COMPULSIONS

Centenary celebrations of the Communist Party of China coming up in July, where Xi Jinping will once again be projected as supreme leader for life

Waiting to assess US President Joe Biden’s policy towards Asia

INDIA’S COMPULSIONS

Peace with Islamabad and Beijing buys New Delhi a temporary reprieve on two military fronts simultaneously live for the first time since Independence. Indian Army has lost lives on the LoC in 2020 in cross-border firing and along the LAC after a deadly clash with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during the stand-off in 2020.

Needs time and space to consolidate economic recovery and to carry out its Covid vaccination drive across the country

USA, THE OUTLIER

Under Joe Biden, the US will be just as tough vis-à-vis China as it was under Donald Trump but it will take a different tack; has outlined a high-technology and military alliance pushback against China

The 20th anniversary of the US war in Afghanistan, the longest in its history, is coming closer

President Joe Biden could be wary of withdrawing from Afghanistan as it endangers the pro-Western administration in Kabul. There is every possibility that the May 1 deadline might be extended.

Biden administration wants India and Pakistan to start talking. The US state department spokesperson welcomed the ceasefire between the two countries.

More Uranium Found in the Iranian Nuclear Horns: Daniel 8

Uranium particles found at Iranian sites

Mar 5, 2021

Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields after a meeting of the IAEA board of governors at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Monday, March 1, 2021. Due to restrictions related to COVID-19, it will be organised as a virtual meeting from the IAEA. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Ronald Zak

BERLIN (AP) — Iran has agreed to sit down with international technical experts investigating the discovery of uranium particles at three former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said Thursday, after months of frustration at Tehran’s lack of a credible explanation.

The agreement came as three of the remaining signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — France, Germany and Britain — backed off the idea of a resolution criticizing Iran for its decision to start limiting access by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to current facilities.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters in Vienna it was not up to him to say whether Iran’s move to hold talks with his technical experts was linked to the decision of the so-called E3 group, but suggested it was difficult to separate the political side of Iran’s nuclear program from the technical side.

The E3 had floated the idea of the resolution after Iran began restricting international inspections last week. After a last-minute trip to Tehran by Grossi, however, some access was preserved.

Russia and China — the other members of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — were reportedly against the resolution, saying it could antagonize Iran further.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press it was common to “discuss all possible options for action” ahead of such meetings, and that despite dropping the resolution, the E3 still had concerns about Iran’s “serious violations” of the nuclear deal.

“Above all, we would like to support the Director General of the IAEA in his efforts to start talks with Iran regarding the open safeguards issues,” the ministry said.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, tweeted after the decision that “wisdom prevails” and that the E3 had prevented unnecessary tension.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry applauded the move.

“Today’s development can maintain the path of diplomacy opened by Iran and the IAEA, and pave the way for full implementation of commitments by all parties to the nuclear deal,” spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

The nuclear deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal unilaterally in 2018, saying it needed to be renegotiated.

Is Pentagon Covering the Iranian Nuclear Horn?

Pentagon Accused of Giving Iran Cover after Iraq Attack as Joe Biden Mulls Retaliation

By David Brennan On 3/5/21 at 5:03 AM EST

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has come under fire for his apparent hesitation to link Iran to Shia militias operating in Iraq and launching attacks against U.S. and allied troops, following the latest rocket barrage against Iraq’s Ain Al Asad air base this week.

Kirby spoke with reporters on Wednesday shortly after the attack, during which one American civilian contractor died of a heart attack. The U.S. has not yet apportioned blame for the rocket attack, and no group has claimed responsibility.

But the operation bears the hallmarks of attacks by Iran-aligned Shia Iraqi militias, which regularly target American, Iraqi and allied forces with artillery, IEDs, rockets, and other weapons.

This week’s attack on Ain Al Asad follows a similar strike on the Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan last month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded several Americans. That attack prompted American retaliatory airstrikes in Syria, targeting fighters belonging to Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups.

But Kirby’s apparent hesitance to link Iran to this week’s attack has prompted criticism online. The Pentagon spokesperson broke with common parlance to describe the suspected perpetrators as “Shia-backed militias,” rather than Iran-backed groups, even after reporters in Wednesday’s briefing challenged the phrase.

“Obviously it’s a rocket attack and we have seen rocket attacks come from Shia-backed militia groups in the past,” Kirby said of this week’s operation.

He added: “We’ve long been open and honest about the threats that arise from these rocket attacks that are being perpetrated by some Shia-backed militia. And we’ve not been bashful about calling it out when we’ve seen it.”

But reporters took issue with Kirby’s phrasing. “When you say Shia-backed militias, do you mean Shia militias or Iran backed…” one journalist asked, before Kirby cut him off and replied: “I mean Shia-backed militias.”

Asked to explain what that meant, Kirby responded: “No seriously. I mean Shia-backed militia.” Pressed again on the phrase, the spokesperson said: “I’ve been using that phrase pretty much since I’ve been up here and we know that—and I’ve said this—that some of the Shia-backed militias have… Iranian backing.”

Past statements, including the Pentagon confirmation of last month’s airstrikes in Syria, have referred to such Iraqi Shia groups as “Iranian-backed militia.”

Iran-watchers on Twitter took issue with Kirby’s remarks and suggested they may be signaling a policy pivot from the administration.

Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of the Gulf State Analytics geopolitical risk company, said Kirby’s phrasing was “rather weird.” Jason Brodsky, the policy director of the United Against Nuclear Iran group, said the exchange with Kirby was “bizarre.”

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote on Twitter that Kirby’s comments hinted at a return to the “absurdities” of former President Barack Obama’s Iran strategy.

Dubowitz said Kirby is “a great American,” but “the fact that he has to offer these verbal contortions to whitewash the role of the regime in Iran in attacking Americans is the fault of senior leadership.”

There is significant overlap between Shia militias and Iran-affiliated groups in Iraq, but not all of the former are aligned with Tehran.

Though the Iranian regime wields huge influence in the country, local Shia leaders—chief among them Ali al-Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr—command enormous popular followings and pursue their own interests, often with a nationalist tinge.

A deft politician who has repeatedly rebranded himself, Sadr has demanded the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq, whether American or Iranian, and has called for Iran-backed militias to be absorbed into the Iraqi armed forces.

Sadr has also worked to build bridges with Iran’s arch-rival Saudi Arabia and its Sunni royal family.

Forces loyal to Sistani have previously worked with the Americans against Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and the ayatollah has been held up by hawks like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a powerful bulwark against Tehran’s influence.

Kirby’s words may be an administration attempt to soften the American response and avoid further escalation, but could also be a reflection of the fact that the investigation is yet to identify exactly which group was responsible for the Ain Al Asad attack.

President Joe Biden has said he will “make judgements” about a response to this week’s attack once the Iraqi-U.S. investigation finds those responsible. “We are following that through right now,” Biden told reporters Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “If we assess further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing.”

Last month’s airstrikes in Syria were designed to deter further attacks against American and allied targets, but Iran-backed militias have continued to agitate in Iraq. Biden is juggling these tit-for-tat actions with his hope of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran and avoiding military escalation in the region.

This article has been updated to provide further background on the Shia militia movement in Iraq.

A picture taken on January 13, 2020 shows a view of the damage at Ain Al Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images

Shaking before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

1.9 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Connecticut

Kathy Reakes03/05/2021 9:30 a.m.

The blue dot pinpoints the Connecticut quake. The orange dots show earthquakes felt within the last 24 hours. Photo Credit: USGS

Did you feel it? 

A minor 1.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the Hartford area at 1:14 a.m., Friday, March 5, or to be more specific about 4.8 miles west in the West Hartford area, said Robert Sanders, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Center.

The depth was 2.2 kilometers.

According to Sanders, minor fault lines run throughout the northeast, and earthquakes happen on a weekly basis, but only a few are strong enough to be felt. 

“Most of the quakes are very low in magnitude, and no one feels them,” Sanders said. “They tend to be felt more in larger cities with denser populations.

If you did feel the quake, the center has a reporting system that keeps track of quakes throughout the U.S. 

As of 9 a.m., 22 people had reported feeling the quake. 

Pope Meets the Antichrist

Pope, top Iraq Shiite cleric deliver message of coexistence

Pope Francis thanked Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during violent times in Iraq.

NAJAF, Iraq — The video above is a message from Pope Francis for the people of Iraq released prior to his visit there.

Pope Francis walked through a narrow alley in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf for a historic meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric, and together they delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence in a country still reeling from back-to-back conflicts over the past decade.

In a gesture both simple and profound, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed Francis into his spartan home. Afterward, he said religious authorities have a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that Christians should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis. The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history

Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, and his rare but powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. He is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious and other matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.

Later in the day, the pope met with Iraqi religious leaders in the shadow of a symbol of the country’s ancient past — the 6,000-year-old ziggurat in the Plains of Ur, also the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Such interfaith forums are a staple of Francis’ international trips. But in strife-torn Iraq the televised gathering of figures from across the country’s religious spectrum was nearly unheard of: From Shiite and Sunni Muslims to Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians and tiny, lesser known, ancient and esoteric faiths like the Kakai, a sect among ethnic Kurds, Mandaeans and Sabaean Mandaeans. Missing from the picture was a representative of Iraq’s once thriving, now nearly decimated Jewish community, though they were invited, the Vatican said.

Together, the day’s two main events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. It is a message he hopes can preserve the place of the thinning Christian population in the tapestry.

Still, it faces a tough sell in a country where every community has been traumatized by sectarian bloodshed and discrimination and where politicians have tied their power to sectarian interests.

In al-Sistani, Francis sought the help of an ascetic, respected figure who is immersed in those sectarian identities but is also a powerful voice standing above them.

Their meeting in al-Sistani’s humble home, the first ever between a pope and a grand ayatollah, was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly negotiated beforehand.

Early Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff, travelling in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, pulled up along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which culminates at the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of the most revered sites in Shiite Islam.

He then walked the few meters (yards) down an alley to al-Sistani’s home. As a masked Francis entered the doorway, a few white doves were released in a sign of peace. He emerged just under an hour later, still limping from an apparent flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that makes walking difficult.

A religious official in Najaf called the 40-minute meeting “very positive.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

The official said al-Sistani, who normally remains seated for visitors, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room — a rare honor. The pope removed his shoes before entering al-Sistani’s room and was served tea and a plastic bottle of water.

Al-Sistani and Francis sat close to one another, without masks. Al-Sistani spoke for most of the meeting, the official said. Al-Sistani, who rarely appears in public or even on television, wore black robes and a black turban, in simple contrast to Francis’ all-white cassock.

The official said there was some concern about the fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before. Francis has received the coronavirus vaccine but al-Sistani has not. The aging ayatollah, who underwent surgery for a fractured thigh last year, looked tired.

After the meeting ended, Francis paused before leaving the room to have a last look, the official said.

In a statement issued by his office afterward, al-Sistani affirmed that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.” He pointed out the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years.”

Al-Sistani wished Francis and the followers of the Catholic Church happiness and thanked him for taking the trouble to visit him in Najaf, the statement said.

Iraqis cheered the meeting, and the prime minister responded to it by declaring March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Cooexistence in Iraq.

”We welcome the pope’s visit to Iraq and especially to the holy city of Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” said Najaf resident Haidar Al-Ilyawi. “It is a historic visit and hope it will be good for Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

Iraq’s Christians, battered by violence and discrimination, hope a show of solidarity from al-Sistani will help secure their place in Iraq and ease intimidation from Shiite militiamen against their community.

Al-Sistani’s voice is a powerful one, often for moderation.

After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, his opinions forced American administrators to alter their transition plans, and his approval opened the way for Iraq’s Shiites to participate in force in post-Saddam Hussein elections. In 2019, as anti-government demonstrations gripped the country, his sermon led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

But his word is not law. After 2003, he repeatedly preached calm and restraint as the Shiite majority came under attack by Sunni extremists. Yet brutal Shiite reprisals against Sunni civilians fed a years-long cycle of sectarian violence.

His 2014 fatwa, or religious edict, calling on able-bodied men to join the security forces in fighting the Islamic State group helped ensure the extremists’ defeat. But it also swelled the ranks of Shiite militias, many closely tied to Iran and now blamed for discrimination against Sunnis and Christians.

Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah.

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” Francis said. “Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”

The Vatican said Iraqi Jews were invited to the event but did not attend, without providing further details. Iraq’s ancient Jewish community was decimated in the 20th century by violence and mass emigration fueled by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only a handful remain.

Ali Thijeel, a Nasiriyah resident who attended the event, said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage investment in the area to attract pilgrims and tourists. “This is what we were waiting for,” he said. “This is a message to the government and politicians. They should take care of this city and pay attention to our history.”

Francis’ visit — his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Iraq. Despite concern about infections, Francis celebrated Mass in a packed, stuffy Chaldean Catholic Cathedral later Saturday in Baghdad that featured chanted Scripture readings and a maskless choir singing hymns.

“Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus,” Francis told the faithful, who did wear masks.

___

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed.

Israel Prepares to Attack the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Israel Developing Plans to Strike Iran over Nuclear Weapons as Joe Biden Deal Falters

By David Brennan On 3/5/21 at 7:29 AM EST

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned that his country will “stand independently” against Iran if needed, as President Joe Biden pushes ahead with his plan to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite opposition from American conservatives and Middle Eastern allies.

Gantz—who is currently defense minister as part of a power sharing deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—told Fox News Radio on Thursday that Israel is constantly drawing up plans to attack Iran and deny Tehran nuclear weapons, with or without American support.

Gantz’s warning comes after weeks of rising tensions in the Middle East, with attacks on American and Iraqi troops by Iranian-backed Iraqi militia groups, American and Israeli airstrikes in Syria, an attack against Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Oman, and intensified operations against Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The Biden administration appears to be trying to keep low intensity regional conflict separate from JCPOA talks, but Gantz told Fox News Radio that Israel was not. “We should not put aside all the regional aggression,” Gantz said, noting incidents in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iranian influence over Islamist militia forces in the besieged Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

We are on very high alert all the time,” Gantz said. “The issue with Iran must be solved.” Asked whether the country had strike plans ready for use, the defense minister said his forces were constantly revising the situation.

“We are working on it,” Gantz said. We have them in our hands, of course, but we will continue and constantly improving them to the highest professional level possible.”

Gantz had been due to take over as Israeli prime minister in November 2021 under the power-sharing deal. But Gantz’s Blue and White coalition is on course to register a poor result in the country’s coming election—the fourth in two years—which would end his leadership hopes.

Despite the political chaos, Israeli leaders are largely united on Iran. Netanyahu and Gantz are both staunch critics of the JCPOA, arguing that Iran cannot be trusted to abide by any deal and that the Obama-era accord was too lenient.

Netanyahu was a key advocate of former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018, and he and other Israeli leaders have been pressuring Biden to walk away from the agreement.

Netanyahu said last month that Israel will stop Iran’s nuclear program “with or without” Biden’s revived deal, while Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said in January his forces were drawing up attack plans on the country.

Israel is unlikely to come on board with any American re-entry into the JCPOA, which the country sees as inherently flawed and a threat to its strategic position. Observers have suggested that Israel might take unilateral action against Iran even without American permission, for example military strikes or cyber attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel has previously attacked nuclear sites in Syria, Iraq and Iran, while Israeli operatives are also believed to have assassinated multiple Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade including top researcher Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November.

“American policy should be American policy and Israeli policy should stay Israeli policy,” Gantz said. “The only thing I would suggest my American colleagues is not to practice what I usually call ‘strategic blinking,'” he added. “The threat of the Iranians is real.”

“Israel will never allow Iran to become nuclear capable or anywhere close to it,” Gantz told Fox News Radio. “If the world stops them before, it’s very much good. But if not, we must stand independently. And we must defend ourselves by ourselves.”

The Biden administration and Tehran are stuck in a stalemate over who will take the first step to reviving the JCPOA. Iran wants Biden to lift all Trump-era sanctions imposed after the U.S. exit from the deal in 2018 before it scales back its nuclear activity in line with the JCPOA. But the White House wants Iranian nuclear compliance before any sanctions relief.

The U.S. has proposed fresh talks with JCPOA signatories, but Iran has rebuffed the offer demanding sanctions relief before any negotiations.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Thursday that Iran “should not be waiting for anything, because we have stated very clearly that what we are prepared to do is to engage in constructive dialogue. That is the offer that has been on the table.”

“If Iran resumes its full compliance with the JCPOA, the United States will be prepared to do the same,” Price said.

This file photo shows an Israeli F-35 fighter jet over the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, on June 27, 2019. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images