US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for TowersNew York TimesBy SAM ROBERTSJULY 17, 2014Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.”Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Hazem al-Araji, the representative of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, survived an assassination attempt in Baghdad on Friday, his secretary has told Rudaw.
Ali al-Obeidi said that the incident took place at 5:30pm, in a ceremony commemorating killed members of a Sadr-led militia in al-Shuala district, eastern Baghdad.
“Armed men in two BMWs opened fire near Araji and hit a member of his personal bodyguard, which led to an exchange of fire between Araji’s bodyguards and the militants,” Obeidi said.
He believes political parties are behind the attempted murder, but would not name them.
In February, Araji was assigned by Sadr to represent “the administration of Basra Governorate” which has seen significant bloodshed since the protest movement began in 2019.
Hundreds of protesters have been killed and kidnapped by security forces and Iran-backed militias since October 2019.
The ceremony was commemorating members of the “Mahdi Army,” created in 2003 by Sadr in a response to US invasion at a time. The Madhi militia was involved in acts of violence and killing of civilians that led to Sadr’s decision to freeze its activities in 2007. However, in February 2020, Sadr said that “defrosting” the Mahdi Army and returning it to the forefront only needs “a matchstick”.
Sadr has been a vocal supporter of reform and anti-corruption campaigns for years. When anti-government protests broke out in October 2019, he sent members of his Saraya al-Salam militia to protect the demonstrators. However, Sadr changed his position and by February 2020, his militias were involved in suppression of the protests.
Vladimir Putin Photograph:( Reuters )
Apr 08, 2021, 10.29 PM (IST)
Russia appears to have developed a nuclear weapon capable of sneaking along the bottom of the sea and detonating along the coastline to flood the area with what one official described as “radioactive tsunamis.”
Defence Experts have emphasized concerns regarding a specific “super-weapon” of Russia ‘The Poseidon 2M39 torpedo’.
It could wipe out entire cities Leaving behind toxic radioactivity. Russia has more futuristic weapons in its arsenal.
According to the reports Russia is planning to carry out different tests of this missile this year. Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked for an update at key stages. Putin wants to deploy the Poseidon in the arctic by the summer of 2022.
Advanced weapons are one way for major countries to exert power and Russia isn’t short on ideas.
Putin is putting the weight of the Russian state behind futuristic weapons. One of them is the flying AK-47.
A video had emerged in 2018 shows the prototype of a flying gun.
A report two years ago said that an arms maker had filed a patent for a drone. Equipped with a standard Kalashnikov rifle. But some believe this version of the weapon makes little sense.
Russia also has unmanned tanks it is called the Uran-9.
The Uran-9 is a tracked unmanned combat ground vehicle (UCGV) developed and produced by JSC 766 UPTK (currently by Kalashnikov Concern), and promoted and offered by Rosoboronexport for the international market.
The Uran-9 was first deployed during the Syrian civil war. It didn’t work as intended. But, it was inducted into military service in January 2019.
Last year, Russia successfully test-fired a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile in the Arctic. The frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea fired a Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile, hitting a naval target 450 km away in the Barents Sea at a speed of over Mach 8.
In early January, the same frigate test-fired a Tsirkon missile for the first time, striking a ground target over 500 km away.
Russia’s biggest adversary united states, wants hypersonic missiles of its own.
On Tuesday, the US Air force tried to test one near Los Angeles. But the missile failed to detach from the wing of the plane. The kremlin must be having a good laugh about this one.
(With inputs from agencies)
Imam Khamenei in live address on the occasion of Al-Mabaath Al-Nabawi (Thursday, March 11, 2021 / photo by Tasnim news agency).
Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said any US claim to having removed Iran’s sanctions must be verified by Tehran and this means that the Islamic Republic should be able to sell its oil under normal conditions and receive its money.
Imam Khamenei’s remarks came in a post on his Instagram page on Thursday as an Iranian negotiating team is in the Austrian capital city of Vienna to discuss conditions for the revival of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], with other signatories to the deal.
“Verification [of US sanctions removal] means [being capable of] selling oil in an official manner, with ease and under normal conditions, and its money be received by Iran,” His Eminence added.
Imam Khamenei’s Instagram account also released a video in which His Eminence reiterated that Tehran is in no hurry for Washington to come back to the nuclear agreement.
His Eminence added that the signatories of the nuclear agreement failed to abide by their commitments under the deal, noting that the decision by the Iranian government and parliament to rollback Tehran’s nuclear commitments was right.
Imam Khamenei stated that commitment on one side should be reciprocated by commitment on the other side and the US must remove all sanctions if the West wants Iran to return to JCPOA compliance.
His Eminence also noted that Tehran will return to full compliance with the nuclear deal once it verifies sanctions have been really removed by the US.
Imam Khamenei said other signatories to the deal have no right to set conditions for Tehran as long as they have not fulfilled their obligations, emphasizing that this is Iran’s definitive policy from which Tehran will not step back.
The United States began imposing heavy economic sanctions against Iran in 2018 after former US President Donald Trump scrapped the JCPOA, which was signed by Iran and world powers, as a result of which Iran was barred from economic transactions with the rest of the world, including selling its oil and receiving its money.
While the Trump administration described its anti-Iran measures as the “maximum pressure” policy, Tehran slammed the measures as “economic war,” “economic terrorism” and also “medical terrorism,” maintaining that the sanctions have severely harmed Iranians but failed to bring the nation to its knees.
The new US administration of Joe Biden has conceded that the so-called maximum pressure campaign has failed, promising to replace it with a new policy, but it has so far failed to take any practical steps in that direction and has actually followed suit with Trump-era policies toward Iran.
Iran remained fully compliant with the deal for an entire year but as the remaining European parties failed to fulfill their end of the bargain, Tehran began in May 2019 to scale back its JCPOA commitments in several steps under Articles 26 and 36 of the accord covering Tehran’s legal rights.
Source: Iranian Agencies
Announcement of further violations of nuclear deal comes a day after Washington and Tehran begin indirect talks aimed at getting agreement back on track
By TOI staff and Agencies
8 Apr 2021, 1:13 am
Iran has produced 55 kilograms (121 lbs) of uranium enriched to 20 percent since the beginning of the year in defiance of the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior Iranian official said Wednesday.
The announcement came a day after the US and Iran began indirect talks aimed at finding a path for both countries to return to the deal.
The production rate is even faster than the goal of enriching 120 kg (260 lbs) of uranium a year, or 10 kg per month, stipulated by an Iranian law passed last year that aimed to pressure the US in response to crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
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Iran’s production rate is already “up to 40%” faster than that, Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told state TV, according to Reuters.
“In less than four months we have produced 55 kg of 20% enriched uranium … in around eight months we can reach 120 kg,” Kamalvandi said.
Uranium enriched to 20% is a short technical step away from weapons-grade 90% enrichment.
In this photo released on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the organization, speaks with media while visiting Natanz enrichment facility, in central Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Iran has been steadily violating the restrictions of the deal, including on the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile and the purity to which it can enrich it. Tehran’s moves have been calculated to put pressure on the other nations in the deal — Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain — to do more to offset crippling sanctions reimposed under Trump, but they also bring Iran potentially closer to the bomb.
The US, Iran and Russia reacted positively Tuesday to the opening exchanges in a first day of talks in Vienna aimed at rescuing the deal.
All sides reported progress on reviving the deal following the Tuesday meeting, which saw the Biden administration and Iran hold indirect talks on the agreement for the first time.
US President Joe Biden has said he is ready to reverse the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw from the landmark 2015 agreement, negotiated to ensure that Iran did not develop a military nuclear program, but the White House has insisted that Iran first return to compliance. Tehran demands the US first lift sanctions, putting the sides at a stalemate.
After Moscow gave a positive assessment of the opening of the talks earlier Tuesday, Washington’s reaction a little later was also upbeat. Iran, too, described the opening talks as “constructive.”
“I can say that overall, the meeting was constructive,” the head of the Iranian delegation, Abbas Araghchi, said in a video on Iranian broadcaster Irinn.
The United States was not present at those discussions because Iran has refused to meet the US delegation so long as its sanctions against Tehran remain in place. The European Union is acting as an intermediary.
Abbas Araghchi, political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, arrives at the Grand Hotel in Vienna on April 6, 2021, where diplomats of the EU, China, Russia and Iran held talks. (Joe Klamar/AFP)
Since Trump pulled the US out of the deal with Iran in 2018, re-imposing sanctions on Tehran, the remaining parties have been struggling to save the agreement, as Iran has gradually stepped up its nuclear activities, including by enriching uranium past the deal’s limits and barring inspectors from accessing sensitive sites.
Israel is strongly opposed to a return to the nuclear deal in its original form, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday that Israel will not be bound by a revitalized nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, declaring that the Jewish state is obligated only to defending itself against those who seek to destroy it.
In a speech at the Yad Vashem memorial museum during Israel’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, Netanyahu referred to negotiations in Vienna.
“A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us,” Netanyahu declared.
“Unlike in the past, today there is no one in the world that will deprive us of the right and the might to defend ourselves from an existential threat,” he said. “The nuclear deal with Iran is once again on the table. Such deals with extreme regimes are worthless.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. April 7, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
“I say to our closest friends too: ‘A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us.’ Only one thing will obligate us: to prevent those who wish to destroy us from carrying out their plans.”
Netanyahu has often used his speeches at Holocaust-related events to invoke Iran as the new existential threat to the Jewish people’s existence.
The shadow war between Israel and Iran has spilled into the sea in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives. The vessels in each case were only lightly damaged and there were no injuries in the incidents.
Tensions in the Middle East have heated in recent months as Iran repeatedly violated the terms of the nuclear deal, possibly to increase its leverage ahead of talks with the Biden administration.
Israel has repeatedly communicated its opposition to returning to the deal to Washington. The sides recently reestablished a bilateral group for cooperating in the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms, agreeing to set up a joint team for sharing intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.
People watch as rockets are fired during a military drill by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Dec. 29, 2020.
April 8, 2021
As Hamas and Fatah continue to hold talks on the upcoming Palestinian general elections, Israeli statements and reports have circulated about Hamas’ growing military capabilities. Meanwhile, Israel launched airstrikes against military targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of March 24, in response to a rocket fired from the enclave toward the city of Beersheba. No injuries have been reported.
The Israeli reports on Hamas’ military capabilities have coincided with the movement’s preparations to run in the elections in a few months and its ongoing political talks with Fatah. This has raised questions on any potential contradictions between the military and political paths Hamas has opted for recently.
A close associate of President Mahmoud Abbas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The national dialogues between Fatah and Hamas are currently focused on the general elections. The talks on problematic issues, such as the arms [used] and attacks against Israel, were postponed to a later time. Such a positive atmosphere in the Palestinian arena requires that Hamas focuses on unifying the domestic front, away from any regional ties with countries that seek political influence in the Palestinian territories, even if through military support.”
On March 17, Haaretz’s correspondent Amos Harel quoted Israeli sources as saying, “A gradual military progress has been observed in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ military arm, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, with Iran’s support, boosted its production capacity for rockets and drones. It also conducts frequent test firings toward the Mediterranean and increases rocket firing experiments in the Mediterranean every now and then.”
The sources added, “The Israeli revelation that Hamas’ capabilities have increased come as part of talks about the so-called new Iranian model that Tehran has pursued in the armament of the groups it supports including Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This model is based on building facilities for the manufacturing of weaponry, in parallel with the smuggling channels that the Israeli army targets every now and then.”
Mahmoud Mardawi, a Hamas leader and former military commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas continuously gains experience and regularly works to increase its manufacturing capabilities in the ground, naval and air combat fields. It receives aid from Iran and develops its own military capabilities, digging underground [tunnels], resorting to the sea and other means for arms smuggling, which I decline to reveal for security reasons. Israel is well aware that Hamas has made military preparations for the next confrontation, with the locally produced and smuggled military capabilities.”
He added, “[The fact] that Hamas is regularly receiving military aid from Iran and developing its own warfare capabilities does not contradict the ongoing dialogue with Fatah. But there cannot be a national consensus neither on giving up the resistance nor on the peace and war decision. There will not be an internal unity neither at the expense of the resistance nor its weapons arsenal.”
On March 18, head of the Israeli army Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi told Israel’s Channel 12 that Israel has repeatedly carried out heavy strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including the tunnels, rocket launchers and factories; struck its naval forces, gliders and drones; and inflicted damage to its naval ships. Its airstrikes have focused on the rockets production sites, in addition to the tunnel passages and underground bunkers where Hamas’ cadres are stationed in the heart of Gaza.
Rami Abu Zubaydah, a military expert who writes for Al Jazeera, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas is constantly working to obtain military and armament supplies, and is using every opportunity to ensure an ongoing flow of weapons to [Gaza] by sea and land. That is although it had begun in the past years to rely heavily on itself. The majority of its weapons, equipment and rockets are self-made weaponry, based on a deliberate strategy to build and develop its military strength, in light of the poor supply from abroad.”
He noted, “Hamas continues to rely on Iran’s capabilities and expertise, as the movement sends its experts and soldiers to receive training in Iran, although the Iranian smuggling operations are exposable and subject to Israeli attacks.”
A report by Israel’s Walla news site said March 20 that al-Qassam Brigades has turned from unorganized divisions and battalions to a quasi-regular army with a clear hierarchy. It also highlighted Iran’s financial aid and operational military development, including the smuggling of massive weapons into Gaza, and Hamas’ efforts to manufacture new weapons — be they drones or longer range missiles. That would make the next military confrontation in the air, at sea and on the ground different from the past ones and puzzling, the report added.
Youssef al-Sharqawi, a Palestinian military expert and military leader in the PLO, told Al-Monitor, “Iran’s ongoing support for Hamas points at its interest in boosting military support for Gaza due to its proximity to Israel and ability to inflict harm [on Israel] in case the latter strikes Iran. Although the far distance separating Iran and Gaza prevents [the latter] from receiving the largest military supply, Israel and Egypt pursue any combat equipment entering Gaza by land and sea.”
He added, “It is inaccurate to say that Hamas’ continued access to Iranian military support would impact the ongoing Fatah-Hamas national dialogue. Fatah is going through an intrinsic crisis because it recognized Israel as legitimate in the 1993 Oslo Accord and no longer speaks of the armed resistance. Hence, a consensus between the two movements will only be achieved in case of a security coordination between Hamas and Israel. And that is far-fetched.”
Hamas occasionally expresses gratitude for the military aid provided by Iran since such support has allowed the movement to survive the Israeli military operations in the past years. In parallel, Hamas built its own military capabilities and combat tools, without, however, allowing such a progress to affect the national dialogue with Fatah, which is less than happy about the Hamas-Iran relations.
The move will once again make the United States a leading donor to the United Nations agency that assists about 5.7 million Palestinians in the Middle East.
April 7, 2021
Aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency at a refugee camp in Gaza City. An assistance package will provides $150 million in humanitarian aid, funneled through the relief agency.Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it would restore hundreds of millions of dollars in American aid to Palestinians, its strongest move yet to reverse President Donald J. Trump’s policy on the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The package, which gives at least $235 million in assistance to Palestinians, will go to humanitarian, economic, development and security efforts in the region, and is part of the administration’s attempt to rehabilitate U.S. relations with Palestinians, which effectively stopped when Mr. Trump was in office.
In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the United States would provide $150 million in humanitarian aid, funneled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a vast agency created 72 years ago to assist displaced Palestinians.
Another $75 million would be allocated for economic development programs in the West Bank and Gaza, and $10 million would be for what Mr. Blinken described as peace-building operations carried out by the United States Agency for International Development.
“U.S. foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important U.S. interests and values,” Mr. Blinken said. “It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability.”
The restoration of aid amounted to the most direct repudiation so far of Mr. Trump’s tilt toward Israel in its decades-old conflict with the Palestinian population in Israeli-controlled territories.
Much of the initial reaction from Israeli officials revolved around Mr. Biden’s decision to resume funding to the relief agency, known as UNRWA, which provides assistance to about 5.7 million people of Palestinian descent in those territories and in neighboring countries. In 2018, Mr. Trump ended the aid as his administration increasingly reshaped American policy heavily in favor of Israel.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United States and United Nations, denounced the Biden administration’s decision to restore funding to the agency, saying its activities were “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic” in nature.
“I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out,” Mr. Erdan said in a statement.
A senior Palestinian official welcomed the move but said the Palestinian leadership, based in Ramallah, still hoped Mr. Biden would reverse several other measures carried out by the Trump administration.
“This is a positive, important and constructive step in the direction of rectifying Palestinian-American relations, which the Trump administration destroyed,” said Ahmad Majdalani, the social development minister of the Palestinian Authority. “We believe it can be built upon by dealing with some other outstanding issues.”
Senator Jim Risch of Idaho and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, both Republicans, criticized the move in a joint statement, saying that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines U.S. interests.”
They added that they would scrutinize the package to ensure it did not breach the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits the United States from providing direct economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops payments to families of Palestinians who commit violence against Israelis or Americans.
Ned Price, the State Department’s spokesman, said on Wednesday that the funding was “absolutely consistent” with American law. He indicated that any aid going to the West Bank and Gaza would be done through “development partners” and “not through governments or de facto government authorities.”
Many humanitarian groups criticized the Trump administration for having denied the United Nations agency money that it had been expecting, which hurtled it into financial crisis. Other countries helped plug some of the shortfall, but the agency has continued to operate under severe financial constraints.
United Nations officials were clearly primed for news of the resumption of aid before it was officially announced. Asked about the Biden administration’s plan, a United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said that “there were a number of countries that had greatly reduced or halted contributions,” and that “we hope the American decision will lead others to rejoin as UNRWA donors.”
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the relief agency, “expressed gratitude” for the U.S. decision to restore funds, saying the two were “historical partners” in working together to assist Palestinian refugees.
Khaled Elgindy, the director of the Middle East Institute’s program on Palestine and Israeli-Palestinian affairs, said that the decision to restore funding to the agency was “a very positive development” and would set an example for other countries as they decide whether to commit funds to it.
Despite that, Mr. Elgindy said that the move focused on reversing a Trump policy in the region — but did not yet appear to be part of a larger effort to advance the most difficult issues, such as discussions about a two-state solution.
“Their goal is to undo as much of the Trump legacy as possible,” he said, “and hope that that’s enough to sort of allow the issue to stabilize and not deteriorate.”
Pranshu Verma reported from Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington, and Adam Rasgon from Jerusalem.