A 3.6-magnitude earthquake shook Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, on Sunday morning, officials said — startling residents across the Northeast who expressed shock about the rare tremors.
The quake struck the area about five miles southwest of the community in Buzzards Bay just after 9 a.m. — marking the strongest one in the area since a magnitude 3.5 temblor in March 1976, the US Geological Survey said.
With a depth of 9.3 miles, the impact was felt across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and into Connecticut and Long Island, New York.
“This is the strongest earthquake that we’ve recorded in that area — Southern New England,” USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Providence Journal.
But the quake was still considered “light” on the magnitude scale, meaning that it was felt but didn’t cause significant damage.
The quake, however, was unusual for the region — which has only experienced 26 larger than a magnitude 2.5 since 1973, Caruso said.
Around 14,000 people went onto the USGS site to report the shaking — with some logging tremors as far as Easthampton, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, both about 100 miles away.
“It’s common for them to be felt very far away because the rock here is old and continuous and transmits the energy a long way,” Caruso said.
Journalist Katie Couric was among those on Long Island to be roused by the Sunday-morning rumblings.
“Did anyone on the east coast experience an earthquake of sorts?” Couric wrote on Twitter.
“We are on Long Island and the attic and walls rattled.”
Closer to the epicenter, residents estimated they felt the impact for 10 to 15 seconds.
“In that moment, it feels like it’s going on forever,” said Ali Kenner Brodsky, who lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Russian-Chinese cooperation is becoming closer and is “a new dimension and a serious challenge” for the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“We consider that Russia and China have developed closer political and military cooperation lately,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag.
According to him, Moscow and Beijing are more often coordinating their steps in international organizations, including in the United Nations.
“By the way, both countries conduct joint maneuvers, long-distance flights of warplanes and maritime operations, and also actively exchange experience in the field of using military systems and control over the Internet,” the NATO chief said, TASS reported.
According to Stoltenberg, at the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels a decision will be made on the program of future development NATO-2030, which is aimed at enhancing the alliance and finding an answer to “the changing balance of powers and new challenges in the field of security policy.” Among them the NATO chief called “turning China into a self-confident military power, growing Russian aggression, new brutal forms of international terrorism, mounting cyber attacks and nuclear weapons proliferation.”
In its relations with Russia, the alliance will stick to the strategy “of containment and dialogue,” Stoltenberg noted. “On the other hand, in challenging times we should maintain contact with our neighbor Russia on the issues of arms control and other military and political challenges. If we do not talk to each other, we won’t be able to iron out our differences or improve mutual understanding,” he stated.
Touching on China, the NATO chief noted that the alliance’s member-states would seek to boost cooperation with the countries of the Pacific region. China’s rise represents “a fundamental change in the global balance of powers,” he pointed out.
LONDON: Iran is enriching uranium at purity levels that “only countries making bombs are reaching,” the UN’s nuclear watchdog chief warned.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Tehran’s enrichment program was “very concerning” and cautioned that it requires a “vigilant eye” in an interview published by the Financial Times on Wednesday.
“A country enriching at 60 percent is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level,” Grossi told the newspaper. “60 percent is almost weapons grade. Commercial enrichment is two or three (percent).”
While most measures the regime has taken to this point are easily reversible, the level of research and development that had taken place was an “issue,” Grossi said.
“You cannot put the genie back into the bottle. Once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification,” he said.
“The Iranian program has grown, become more sophisticated so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015.”
World powers are currently in Vienna to negotiate with Iran on a return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal signed in 2015, which the US withdrew from in 2018.
Since the American withdrawal, Iran has consistently overstepped on limits set out in the deal. Which has prompted fears Tehran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge it has denied.
Grossi said a return to the original JCPOA was not a “feasible” option and pointed to the need for a more nuanced agreement considering the knowledge the Iranian program had accumulated since 2015.
“It is not possible,” he said. “Iran has accumulated knowledge, has accumulated centrifuges and has accumulated material. They have many options. They can dismantle, they can destroy, they can put in a cupboard. What we need to be able to do is to verify in a credible and timely manner.
Grossi says Iran has already extended research and development that was not allowed by the original JCPOA.
“It has happened and now the issue is how to deal with the results,” he said. “What you absolutely need is a way to verify that if they have that knowledge it is not being used to make bombs.”
Grossi also said Iran’s failure to provide explanations for traces of uranium found at two of its undeclared sites was “a big problem.”
Inspectors have been prevented from carrying out full monitoring on Iran’s program since Tehran imposed restrictions on IAEA in February, but a compromise agreement extension into June has allowed some monitoring to take place.
“We are entering a phase where we have to take . . . one week at a time, and see how the other process (the Vienna negotiations) evolves,” he said. “It is obvious that a program with the degree of ambition, sophistication that Iran has, you need a very robust, very strong verification system . . . otherwise it becomes very fragile.”
Grossi said he has warned Iran about how restricting access will affect its credibility in negotiations, but that it is not his role to reprimand Tehran directly.
“They know they have to provide explanations. We are asking them to come clean with all these things because it can only help them,” he said.
“My responsibility is the credibility and integrity of the nonproliferation regime, I could say ‘do not say anything,’ but then five years down the line something happens, and then it is a dereliction of duty on our part.”
Grossi, who was in London on Tuesday, discussed challenges to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and the need to monitor Iran’s activity with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
“We discussed how to ensure safe and peaceful uses of nuclear technology and prevent its misuse,” Raab said. “We also spoke about UK support for IAEA’s monitoring and verification in Iran and North Korea.”
No sooner had President Biden’s appeasement squad been deployed than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the cleric heading Iran’s regime, ended almost four years of relative self-restraint by trying to revive the embers of several conflicts into blazing flames. Pictured: Iran’s “Supreme Guide,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Image source: khameni.ir/Wikimedia Commons)
Last February, when the new Biden administration launched its promised bid for a revival of the Obama “nuclear deal” with the Islamic Republic, apologists described it as an attempt at preventing another Middle Eastern war. This echoed the old mantra that in dealing with the Khomeinist regime, the choice is between appeasement and full-scale war.
Adepts of that mantra have failed to understand that in dealing with the mullahs it is appeasement that encourages war.
Thus, no sooner had President Biden’s appeasement squad been deployed than Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the cleric heading the Khomeinist regime, ended almost four years of relative self-restraint by trying to revive the embers of several conflicts into blazing flames.
He started with Yemen, where he had withdrawn his embassy, military mission and religious propagandists, transferring them to Oman on a “temporary basis”, by sending one of his generals as the new ambassador with the mission to upgrade the Houthis’ ramshackle war machine. The next move was to speed up the supply of new rockets and missiles to his Hezbollah units in Lebanon. That was followed by a massive cash handout to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza in exchange for launching a new round of missile and rockets attacks on Israel. In between he also ordered a military build upon Iran’s borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia, to signal the end of the low profile he had been forced to adopt during the Trump administration.
But that was not all. Believing that the new US administration may help him solve his cash flow problem, the ayatollah re-wrote the official national budget, prepared by outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, to dramatically increase his military’s share. The revised budget, rushed through the ersatz parliament like a knife in butter, includes a 62 percent raise in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ share. The Quds (Jerusalem) Force, which is in charge of exporting revolution and keeping the pot boiling in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, sees its budget increased by almost 40 percent. Some estimates put the total increase of Iran’s military budget since 2019 at around 150 percent.
The message going to surrogates in the region and beyond is that Tehran expects to be able to end the budget cuts it had been forced to introduce during the Trump tenure as the US, with a wink and a nod, allows some allies, notably South Korea and Japan, to release part of the money they owe for oil imports.
In theological terms, Khamenei and his associates see the expected deal with Biden as “relief after constraint” which is promised to believers who go through a period of suffering without losing faith.
The ayatollah seems determined to use this “window of opportunity” for changing gears in domestic politics also. The seven-man list of “approved candidates” he has launched for the forthcoming presidential election shows that he intends to install a war cabinet of radicals totally loyal to his person.
Does all that mean that the “Supreme Guide” is preparing for war?
Not all, if by war we mean a full-scale classical clash of military forces on land, in air and at sea. Khamenei knows that his disorganized military, divided into countless corps and commands with conflicting cultures and interests and often saddled with antiquarian materiel, is in no position to fight a classical war against a serious enemy. None of his 13 highest ranking generals, all at retirement age and deeply involved in their own business activities, has the profile of a putative conqueror.
Khamenei implicitly admits that by repeating his “neither compromise, nor war” slogan.
As far as diplomacy is concerned, he will play the game that Tehran started almost 30 years ago, negotiating accords on the “nuclear issue”. The new US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, says the aim is to persuade Tehran to reduce its nuclear activities so that it is always no less than a year away from building a bomb. Khamenei, who has no intention of building a bomb at this time, is ready to offer the Americans the candy that they crave.
Last month he said: If we decide to build the bomb, neither they (the Biden team) nor those greater than them could stop us!
His kind of war is labelled in many different ways: proxy, asymmetric, low-intensity, low-cost, cottage industry war. Aware that few Iranians are prepared to fight his kind of war, he pursues it through surrogates and mercenaries recruited in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen. The use of mercenaries in such wars has a long history. The Abbasid Caliphs used the Turkish Mameluke slaves and the Ottomans had the Bashi-Bazouks while the Safavids used the Qizil-Bash and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The British in India employed the Nepalese Gurkha (Tomb-seekers) and the French did their dirty work through Alawite recruits known as “auxiliaires” or ” helpers”.
According to best estimates, the Islamic Republic has spent around $20 billion in its various low-cost wars since 2000, a relatively modest sum compared to the huge cost of a full-scale war. According to Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, the regime needs a minimum of $60 billion a year to cover its basic costs and survive while continuing its decades-long campaign to destabilize the Middle East in the hope of what Kayhan, a mouthpiece for Khamenei, describes as “the inevitable tsunami of Islamic revolution” that would establish a new base for the eventual conquest of the world by “faith and justice” by the Iranian-led Resistance Front.
Blinken talks of his hopes for a “breakthrough” in the currently stalled “nuclear” talks. Khamenei, too, wants a breakthrough based in a promise to enrich the uranium he does not want or need at a lower grade in exchange for the cash flow he does need to reactivate his momentarily interrupted special kind of war against the US and its regional allies, indeed against what is often known as ” the world order”.
Fear of an illusory war may lead to a deal which would allow a real war to continue behind the façade of an illusory peace.
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist forAsharq Al-Awsat since 1987.
This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.
During the recent conflict in Gaza, the Israeli military focused on a key target – hundreds of miles of tunnels, tunnels used by Hamas and other Islamist militants. Israel says the tunnels signify a new type of warfare it has to counter, but efforts to destroy the underground networks are having serious unintended consequences, as NPR’s Jackie Northam reports from Jerusalem.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Israel has long known Hamas had a tunnel system in Gaza. For years, it was seen as rudimentary and mostly used to smuggle supplies in from Egypt. But the tunnels turned into an urgent threat seven years ago during a war between the two sides when Hamas used them to burrow into Israel, launching surprise attacks and ambushing soldiers?
DAPHNE RICHEMOND-BARAK: Cross-border tunnels to be discovered, I think it epitomizes the meaning of terror and terrorizing the civilian population.
NORTHAM: Daphné Richemond-Barak is a law professor at IDC Herzliya, a private research college near Tel Aviv, and wrote a book on tunnels called “Underground Warfare.” She said Israel sealed off the cross-border tunnels and then turned its attention to an underground network inside Gaza. At the same time, Hamas and other militant groups were rapidly expanding that network.
NORTHAM: This documentary by Al Jazeera shows armed militants moving through tall, reinforced concrete tunnels. The Israeli military estimates Hamas has roughly 300 miles of tunnels running under Gaza. It calls it the Metro. Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters the Metro is critical to Hamas’s military activities.
JONATHAN CONRICUS: That is how they move from one location to the other. That is how they control and manage the operations. That is how they provide the rockets to the rocket launchers which fire towards Israel. In short, it’s really the backbone of Hamas’s system and, hence, its importance.
NORTHAM: Richemond-Barak, who is also associated with West Point’s Modern War Institute, says Hamas cannot possibly outgun Israel’s military power in a conventional war, so uses the tunnels in an effort to even up the playing field.
RICHEMOND-BARAK: It’s the great equalizer, so it enables Hamas operatives to operate undetected. And this way it’s impossible to gather intelligence as to what their future operations might look like. So it’s the best way to re-establish a level of symmetry between the two sides.
NORTHAM: The Israeli military launched more than a thousand airstrikes during the conflict last month, repeatedly saying a priority was to destroy the tunnel network. But it acknowledges it took out only about 20%. Civilians paid a steep price for that. Such was the case on Wahda Street in Gaza City. The military says it was targeting tunnels, and when they collapsed, it caused the foundations of homes above them to collapse. Gazan officials say 42 people, including women and children, died in the attack.
LAMYAA KAWLAK: (Non-English language spoken).
NORTHAM: Lamyaa Kawlak says she was sleeping when the airstrikes started. Shells started falling around them. They weren’t given any warning. She and her children ran from the building. All the buildings around them began falling.
KAWLAK: (Non-English language spoken).
NORTHAM: Saleh Hijazi is with Amnesty International in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He says the Israeli military should have taken precautions – choosing weaponry that could have spared civilian lives.
SALEH HIJAZI: We need to examine that instance, you know, on its own and to see whether that target was, first, a legitimate military target and whether the attack was proportionate. So the focus needs to be on Israel and its actions.
NORTHAM: Atai Shelach is a former commander of an elite unit which deals with the tunnels. He says the military tries to limit civilian casualties, but says this is war, and the tunnels are a new front in the battle with Hamas.
ATAI SHELACH: The tunnel is here to stay. OK. It’s here to stay. And they will improve their abilities and capabilities. And of course, our technologies and our capabilities hopefully will be much better.
NORTHAM: But it’s likely Israel and Hamas will face off again. Tunnels will be the target, and civilians who live above them will be at risk. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
The latest escalation of violence has killed 253 Palestinians. Among the dead are 66 children, 39 women, and 17 older people. Almost 2,000 more have been injured and others are missing. To make matters worse, 28 health care facilities were damaged in the conflict, and many are unable to seek the medical aid they desperately need. Damaged infrastructure caused by the bombing has also seen thousands of homes destroyed and has left many families homeless.
A dedicated team of around 60 Islamic Relief staff in Gaza have been working tirelessly to help vulnerable people. Our focus is on providing displaced families with desperately needed items like bedding, hygiene products and vouchers to buy urgently needed supplies.
So far we have distributed 1,200 food vouchers which cover the cost of food for 1 month and offer families more choice and flexibility than simply giving them food parcels. We have also distributed 110 bedding sets to vulnerable families.
We are now also working on the process to help Palestinian families get back on their feet in the aftermath of the devastation. This support includes repairing damaged homes, as well as fixing healthcare facilities and schools, and providing them with the equipment they need to run smoothly.
We will also be supporting special education centres and providing psychosocial support to affected families. Our plans also include supporting the repair of water systems so that homes have easy access to water. Our plans also include upscaling our many existing projects in Gaza which are a lifeline for many people.
“Just imagine, sleeping on the muddy ground”
Sadly, conditions in Gaza were dire even before this latest escalation in conflict. The occupation, blockade and recurring conflict have caused deep poverty and suffering, and everyday life is a struggle for many families. One of the most prevalent issues is that many are unable to afford decent, safe housing, and are living in overcrowded, squalid conditions.
Poor housing conditions increase the likelihood of contracting harmful infections and developing respiratory problems. Inadequate shelter is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of families and disrupting children’s education.
In winter, temperatures plummet, and inadequate housing – combined with a lack of food, clothing and access to medical care – creates major challenges for thousands of families in Gaza. The situation is particularly difficult for orphan families, who have little or no source of income.
Islamic Relief is helping vulnerable families through a project to help rebuild good-quality houses.
During 2020, we repaired and improved the homes of 79 vulnerable orphan families, helping to create happy, healthy and dignified living conditions.
36-year-old Heba greets everyone with a smile, and especially her 6 children, who she is raising alone. 5 years ago, her husband passed away, leaving her with the sole responsibility of providing for their children.
Heba’s family gave her a small area of land upon which she has built a room, where she lives with her children. There is no kitchen or bathroom, and the roof is severely damaged. In winter, they face huge problems with damp, with rainwater getting in and with the lack of protection from the cold.
“Just imagine, sleeping on the muddy ground in a devastating place. No mattress or pillows, no heating, no monthly income and no food.
“No one can know what poor people are facing unless you experience their situation,” says Heba.
Islamic Relief helped to expand and repair Heba’s home, and they are now living in a comfortable and spacious environment. We also provided the family with essential items such as warm clothes, to help them through the winter months.
“There was nothing to keep us safe or warm, but after your kind service, and after your generosity, everything has changed for the better. There really are no words which can describe our happiness, and our thankfulness at the great impact of Islamic Relief’s support,” says Heba.
Sadly, the recent escalation in conflict which has destroyed thousands of homes will now worsen an already dire housing crisis.