Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.
Jon SchwarzJun. 07 2021, 4:00 AM
“IT’S VERY PROFITABLE to prepare for omnicide,” Daniel Ellsberg, famed whistleblower and anti-nuclear weapons activist, said in a recent interview. “Northrop Grumman and Boeing and Lockheed and General Dynamics make a lot of money out of preparing for such a war. The congressmen get campaign contributions, they get votes in their district and almost every state for preparing for that.”
But don’t just take it from Ellsberg. At an investor conference in 2019, a managing director from the investment bank Cowen Inc. queried Raytheon’s CEO on this subject. “We’re about to exit the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] with Russia,” said the Cowen executive. Did this mean, he asked, whether “we will really get a defense budget that will really benefit Raytheon?” Raytheon’s CEO happily responded that he was “pretty optimistic” about where things were headed.
A new report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons released Monday examines in detail just who’s getting all the radioactive cash and why. ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 in recognition for its work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”
There are currently nine countries that possess nuclear weapons: the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. ICAN calculated that they collectively spent $72.6 billion in 2020 on nukes.
The U.S. was responsible for just over half of this doomsday payout, at $37.4 billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. nuclear spending is anticipated to soon increase sharply due to plans for technological upgrades, rising to $41.2 billion next year and totaling $634 billion during the 10 years from 2021-2030.
China came in second in 2020 at an estimated $10.1 billion. Russia was third at $8 billion. Notably, in a year when the world economy was flattened by the coronavirus pandemic, nuclear spending continued on an upward trajectory without a hiccup.
Despite these hefty numbers, they’re probably an underestimate. “There’s always more [nuclear spending] out there … even more still lurking in the shadows,” said Susi Snyder, co-author of the report and managing director of the project Don’t Bank on the Bomb. Snyder points out that “governments, especially U.S., U.K., [and] France are always demanding ‘transparency’ … yet they do not hold themselves to the standards they demand of others.”
A great deal of U.S. nuclear spending consists of profitable contracts with private corporations. The four companies Ellsberg said were raking in cash “preparing for war” indeed received the most money in 2020:
- Northrop Grumman — $13.7 billion
- General Dynamics — $10.8 billion
- Lockheed Martin — $2.1 billion
- Boeing — $105 million
These enormous contracts create obvious incentives for these companies to lobby for more government expenditures on Armageddon, and they assiduously do so. Indeed, lobbying unquestionably is the most profitable investment these companies make. According to ICAN’s report, for every $1 they spent on lobbying, they received $239 in nuclear weapon contracts.
The specifics are notable here. Northrop reported $13.3 million in lobbying expenses in 2020. Last year it was formally awarded the enormous initial contract to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile system called the “Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.” It will inevitably receive the contract for the entire program, estimated to be worth $85 billion over its life. In discussion on the GBSD, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition stated that he didn’t see the pandemic affecting nuclear spending.
There is also much more to lobbying than that which goes by the name. In the 2006 documentary “Why We Fight,” journalist Gwynne Dyer explained that President Dwight Eisenhower considered the military-industrial complex actually to have three components: the military, defense corporations, and Congress. But now, Dyer said, there’s a fourth: think tanks, which generally push their funders’ policies under a thin veneer of scholarship.
According to the report, companies profiting from nuclear weapons contributed $5-10 million to think tanks in 2020. Northrop alone spent at least $2 million funding nine of them, including the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, the Center for a New American Security, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
However, ICAN did not produce the report for passive consumption or as an inducement to despair. Instead, it is part of a sophisticated strategy to eventually make nuclear weapons as taboo worldwide as chemical and biological weapons are now.
ICAN was a key force behind the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in 2017 at the United Nations. It makes illegal any activities related to nuclear weapons and has been signed by 86 countries and ratified by 54. It entered into force this past January.
None of the nuclear powers are signatories. Yet they need not be for the treaty to create a noose around those countries and their companies that should tighten over time. For instance, Airbus produces missiles for France’s nuclear weapons arsenal. But it is headquartered in the Netherlands, so if that country ratified the TPNW, it could no longer do so.
This financial threat has now attracted the attention of the stockholders of these nuclear corporations. Snyder notes that a 2020 Northrop shareholders resolution stated that the company “has at least $68.3 billion in outstanding nuclear weapons contracts, which are now illegal under international law,” and it received 22 percent support. A similar Lockheed resolution got over 30 percent support. The KBC Group, the 15th-largest bank in Europe, has announced that it will not fund any nuclear weapon-related activity because of the TPNW.
Success here will obviously require a long-term campaign and increased activism across the world. But the trajectory is headed in the right direction. “The days of spending with impunity on WMD,” believes Snyder, “are numbered.”
Russia’s powerful Northern Fleet just got the first of a new class of submarines that has the US Navy worried
Tue, June 8, 2021, 6:30 AM
On May 7, the Russian Navy finally commissioned the Kazan, its first Yasen-M-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine (SSGN).
Kazan is the lead boat of a subclass descended from the Yasen class, the first of which, Severodvinsk, was commissioned in 2013.
Kazan is the culmination of more than a decade of effort to field a new and completely modern SSGN, and it is a marked improvement in nearly every respect over its predecessor, which already had US commanders and their NATO allies worried.
Severodvinsk and Kazan represent a new chapter for Russia’s submarine force – long considered the most important part of the Russian Navy.
The Yasen-M-class has an interesting history. Although it is believed to be Russia’s most advanced and expensive submarine class ever, the original Yasen design comes from the latter days of the Cold War.
Since its start, the Yasen program has been beset by delays and setbacks. The collapse of the USSR was followed by extensive budget cuts for the Russian Navy and the erosion of critical shipbuilding infrastructure and expertise.
Severodvinsk was laid down in 1993 but did not enter service until 2013. Construction of Kazan didn’t begin until 2009.
At 456 feet long, the Severodvinsk has 10 torpedo tubes located near the central post instead of the bow (a first for Russian submarines) and eight vertical launch tubes, each capable of holding multiple missiles.
The Kalibr, which entered service in 2015, is particularly threatening, as its range of over 1,500 miles gives the Russian Navy the ability to conduct long-range strike missions with conventional weapons for the first time.
The Severodvinsk also has much more advanced quieting technology than its predecessors, and has already proven able to avoid detection.
In 2019, Pentagon officials told “60 Minutes” that the sub had sailed into the Atlantic in 2018 and “for weeks” evaded all efforts to find it.
Because Kazan took so much longer to develop, it could be loaded with advanced technology developed in the last few years. Its overall design was also refined, placing it in a distinct subclass.
“You really have a fundamentally new submarine in many respects,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analysis, told Insider.
Though it is slightly smaller than the Severodvinsk, the Yasen-M class features new control systems, new quieting technology, new sensor suites, new personnel-rescue systems, new damage-control systems, and even an updated nuclear reactor designed to make less noise.
Although Yasen-M only has eight torpedo tubes compared to Severodvinsk’s 10, it can carry the same kind and number of missiles.
There are also reports that Kazan will be armed with the Zircon, the Russian hypersonic missile reportedly capable of reaching speeds between Mach 6 and Mach 8. Final testing of the Zircon is expected to begin in June.
At first glance, Yasens may appear less threatening than Russia’s nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, particularly those of the new Borei-class.
But those ballistic-missile boats are more predictable; they are covered by agreements like the New START Treaty, and their nuclear arsenals would likely only be used in absolute worst-case scenarios.
The Yasens, on the other hand, carry advanced conventional weaponry capable of striking targets deep inland. Combined with their stealth capabilities and their ability to be almost anywhere in any ocean, the threat of the Yasens is hard to understate.
“The Severodvinsk is [meant] for long-range patrols in the ocean,” Edmonds said. “During wartime we’d be worried about Severodvinsk submarines sitting off the East Coast or the Pacific Coast.”
The US Navy has repeatedly sounded the alarm over increased Russian Navy capabilities and activities.
Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of the 2nd Fleet, warned last year that “our ships can no longer expect to operate in a safe haven on the East Coast or merely cross the Atlantic unhindered.”
Vice Adm. Daryl L. Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, echoed those concerns in September, saying that “it’s pretty well known now that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary, so we have to be prepared here to conduct high-end combat operations in local waters.”
Those concerns stem mostly from improvements in Russia’s submarine fleet, especially the Severodvinsk and Kazan.
With Kazan completed and commissioned and the Yasen-M design finalized, it is believed that Kazan’s sister-boats will take less time to construct.
The second Yasen-M, Novosibirsk, was launched in December 2019 and is expected to be delivered to the Navy by the end of this year. The third boat, Krasnoyarsk, will be launched in August and is expected to be commissioned in late 2022.
If Russia sticks to its timetable, five more Yasen-Ms will join the fleet by the end of the decade.
Severodvinsk and Kazan are part of Russia’s Northern Fleet based in Severomorsk, while Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk will join the Pacific Fleet.
In all, four Yasen-Ms and the Severodvinsk will be in the Northern Fleet, with the other four in the Pacific Fleet. Russia does not deploy any of its nuclear submarines to the Baltic or Black Sea fleets because they do not have easy access to the open ocean.
With more Yasens in service, Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities are markedly enhanced.
“It’s something that can bring the fight to the continental US,” Edmonds told Insider. “There is a certain conventional non-nuclear deterrent aspect to the Severodvinsk, and I think that plays into the larger strategic framework that the Russians operate in.”
“It’s just a formidable undersea platform,” Edmonds said.
Monday, 07 Jun 2021 10:53
Es’haq Jahangiri, Iran’s vice president has slammed the June 5 debate among presidential candidates for what he called was partiality against the government and demanded airtime on State TV to set the record straight.
In a series of tweets Monday, Jahangiri said while five hardliner candidates attacked Rouhani’s administration for current economic difficulties, they did not say who was responsible for bringing on international sanctions against Iran from 2006-2010. They also failed to mention the damage from sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in 2018 and blamed Rouhani for high inflation, a huge budget deficit and a deep recession.
Jahangiri was referring to United Nations sanctions that demanded Iran suspend some nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment, and curtail its missile program. The sanctions included gradually tightening economic measures and an arms embargo. Iran was defiant and refused to comply.
The debate Jahangiri criticized was designed to ask prep-prepared questions by the State TV controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which made no reference to US sanctions, Iran’s nuclear program or the Covid-19 pandemic that also negatively impacted the economy.
The election watchdog, also controlled by Khamenei, allowed seven candidates to satnd for the controversial June 18 vote. Five of the candidates are hardliners and one of them, Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) is expected to win. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former parliament speaker Ali Larijani were disqualified. Jahangir also registered but was not approved by the Council.
ByHamid EnayatJune 7, 2021
On May 22, 2021, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei’s website, posted a congratulatory message from one of the Hamas group’s leaders, Ziad Nakhaleh. In his message, Ziad Nakhaleh addresses Khamenei and says, “Qasem Soleimani’s friends and brothers, especially Ismail Ghani (Iran’s IRGC commander) and his colleagues, led this battle and were present with us during our recent conflict with Israel. … We pray for the preservation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its brave soldiers.”
Since the regime’s establishment 42 years ago, Iran has been instrumental in inflicting war and chaos regionally. When Iran finds itself cornered and entangled with its internal problems or facing an impasse, a war or bloody conflict gets ignited by the regime to divert the Iranian people’s attention. This undeclared policy of the Iranian regime frees itself from the most pressing internal issues, even temporarily.
Today’s Iranian society is like a barrel of gunpowder ready to ignite. Last year, the Iranian parliament declared that more than 60 percent of Iranians live below the poverty line. According to the media close to the regime, close to 80% of the population below the poverty line this year. It is worth mentioning that Iran is one of the top 10 wealthiest countries globally, despite the challenges of the current sanctions.
This poverty is mainly the result of rampant institutionalized government corruption. According to Qalibaf, the current speaker of Iran’s parliament, only 4 percent of the population is prosperous, and the rest are poor and hungry. The two uprisings of 2017 and mid-November 2019 that surprised the regime were caused mainly by extreme poverty and high inflation. The regime survived the above widespread uprisings by opening direct fire at the innocent protestors, killing more than 1500 people. There is no longer any legitimacy for the regime domestically and internationally.
The explosive barrel of the Iranian discontent is about to burst at any given moment. To delay such social eruption, Khamenei banned the import of COVID-19 vaccines from the US, Britain, and France, hoping the people will be occupied with the virus and forget about their miserable living conditions.
On the other hand, the Iranian regime is in the midst of new negotiations with the western countries regarding its nuclear program. These negotiations may force the regime to abandon its nuclear plans that have cost billions of dollars, its terrorist activities in the region, and its ballistic missiles stockpile. This retreat will inevitably facilitate the growth and spread of the uprisings and social unrest across Iran.
The Deadlock of the Regime
The regime is facing an election that could ignite the barrel of gunpowder of the Iranian society. In 1988, when Khamenei wanted to announce Ahmadinejad as the winner of the presidential ballot boxes but faced opposition from former Prime Minister Mousavi. Widespread demonstrations were ignited. The same scenario is repeating itself in this year’s presidential election, where Khamenei intends to announce Raisi as the next president of Iran. There is a legitimate fear that demonstrations will ignite once again.
To avoid the happening of the same experience, Khamenei is forced to make an important decision. Like any other dictator, he pursues a policy of contraction during these challenging and crucial times, deciding to favor those loyal to him and his policies. Khamenei needs a uniform and decisive government to exert maximum repression on the Iranian people.
By disqualifying the former president (Ahmadinejad), the current vice president (Jahangiri), and most importantly, his current adviser and speaker of the two parliaments (Larijani), he has cut loose a large part of his regime. One way or another, Khamenei’s contraction policy is going to weaken his grip on power.
On the other hand, the Iranian regime must comply with the West’s demand for nuclear talks. In 2021, the political landscape is entirely different from 2015 in the balance of regional and global forces. The regime’s regional influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria has been severely weakened.
There is an explosive situation inside Iran. The resistance units spread throughout Iran after the 2019 uprising and have rapidly increased in recent months. They are spreading the message of separation of religion from the government, plus equality between men and women in a society where women do not have the right to be elected as president or a minister. The resistance units call themselves supporters of Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian regime’s sworn enemy. These units can direct a massive flood of people’s anger towards the Supreme Leader’s establishments with every spark and explosion.
Khamenei wanted to force the West to lift all sanctions and demonstrate a show of force within Iran and the region by initiating the Gaza war. The Gaza war was intended to divert the attention from Khamenei’s decisions on Iran’s presidential election. In this situation, the regime wanted to break its presidential deadlock by firing rockets through Hamas and carrying out a massacre in Israel and Palestine.
The Biden administration’s approach to South Asia has focused primarily on the promotion of U.S.-India relations. For example, the administration sent Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to meet Indian leaders in New Delhi. It stressed the importance of India at its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. Additionally, it has actively promoted the U.S.-India-Japan-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad. Although the results of these policies have been mixed, shortcomings have not resulted from a lack of U.S. interest.
Even as it has sought to cultivate India, however, the Biden administration haslargely ignored the other big, nuclear-armed state in South Asia: Pakistan. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin bypassed Pakistan on his recent visit to the region, as did climate czar John Kerry. President Joe Biden has not even spoken to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. Pakistani and U.S. National Security Advisors Moeed Yusuf and Jake Sullivan did meet in Geneva last week. But their discussion yielded only a terse statement reporting that the two sides had talked about various issues of “mutual interest,” including means of advancing “practical cooperation,” and had agreed to “continue the conversation.”
It is reasonable for the Biden administration to prioritize U.S.-India relations over its relationship with Pakistan. Despite the United States and Pakistan’s ostensible partnership over the past twenty years in the Global War on Terror, the relationship between the two countries frayed badly during that conflict. Pakistan often worked at cross purposes with the United States, supporting the Taliban and related groups, and undermining coalition efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the United States and India developed a close partnership, with India becoming central to U.S. efforts to offset rising Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Nonetheless, Pakistan remains animportant regional power. It possesses a significant nuclear weapons capability. It is locked in a longstanding security competition with India. It enjoys a close relationship with China. And it wields considerable influence in Afghanistan. Failure to engage Pakistan reduces the ability of the United States to understand Pakistan’s position, and potentially to affect its behavior, in these critical areas.
The Biden administration should not, then, continue to ignore Pakistan. But, in its efforts to strike a better balance, it must not overcorrect and move too far in the direction of U.S.-Pakistan cooperation. Many influential voices advocate just such an approach.Leading analysts argue, for example, that the United States should take advantage of new leadership in Washington, impending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a growing Pakistani need for foreign investment, not just to engage Pakistan, but to reset U.S.-Pakistani relations. In this view, the Biden administration should work closely with the Pakistani government to promote far-reaching economic cooperation, including building manufacturing facilities in Pakistan and turning the country into a re-export hub for U.S. goods into China.
Senior Pakistani officials make similar arguments. In a recent speech, Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, touting Pakistan’s “tremendous geo-economic potential,” stated that cooperation with the new Biden administration could “transform” the South Asian region and “guide us into a future full of peace and prosperity.” He subsequently communicated to senior United States officials Pakistan’s desire to pursue “greater cooperation” with the U.S. in “all domains.” According toYusuf, today’s Pakistan is “very different” than before, dedicated to an “economic security paradigm” and “100 percent open to improving the (U.S.-Pakistan) relationship.” At the meeting in Geneva, Yusuf reportedly presented Sullivan with a blueprint for enhanced U.S.-Pakistan relations based on expanded trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
A reset in the United States-Pakistan relationship sounds attractive, but efforts to achieve it are unlikely to succeed. The United States could not sustain close cooperation with Pakistan, even in the realm of trade and economics, unless Pakistan fundamentally changed its strategic behavior. At a minimum, this would include abandoning its anti-Indian terrorism campaign, ceasing support for the Taliban and related groups in Afghanistan, and distancing itself from China.
The Pakistanis have suggested that such a transformation is possible. Bajwa, for example, claimed that Pakistan could “bury the past” with India, and was committed to “peace in Afghanistan.” While acknowledging the centrality of Pakistan’s relationship with China, he also maintained that Pakistan had “diverse potential,” and should not be viewed solely through the lens of Sino-Pakistani cooperation.
In truth, over its seventy-four-year history, Pakistan has never fundamentally altered its strategic behavior. Even in the face of major changes in the security environment—losing wars with India, acquiring nuclear weapons, joining the Global War on Terror—Pakistan has consistently been guided by its ideological commitments, particularly the perceived need to undo Indian control of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, it has steadfastly adhered to policies designed to promote this outcome, including deploying Islamist militants against India, acquiring strategic depth in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban, and cultivating China as an “all-weather” friend. Pakistan continued to do so even as it accepted tens of billions of dollars from the United States in return for its purported cooperation in the War on Terror.
At present, terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed remain based in Pakistan and active on Indian territory. Omar Sheikh, found guilty in 2002 of kidnapping and murdering journalist Daniel Pearl, could go free after the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned his conviction. The roughly $80-billionPakistan-China Economic Corridor, though currently underperforming, ensures that close Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation will continue far into the future. And although Pakistan helped to secure Taliban participation in the Afghan peace process, it continues to provide sanctuaries for the Taliban and related militants and has been unable to get the Taliban to agree to aceasefire. This is not a recipe for a United States-Pakistan reset. It is a recipe for more of the same.
This does not mean that the United States should eschew all engagement with Pakistan. More high-level dialogue, including a conversation between Biden and Khan, would be helpful. And modest economic initiatives, such as the establishment of tariff-free zonesfor Pakistani exports to the United States, could promote mutually beneficial trade, involve relatively low cost and risk, and avoid areas of past U.S.-Pakistan acrimony.
But any such initiatives must be conditioned on measurable improvements in Pakistani behavior, and not simply granted as part of a sweeping reset of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Trump’s South Asia strategy was clear on the need to link U.S.-Pakistan cooperation with improved Pakistani behavior, and the Biden administration would do well to take a similar approach. Even if doing so does not change Pakistan’s policies, then it will create incentives for improvements and, at the very least, not support ongoing Pakistani malfeasance. Pakistan is too important for the United States to ignore. But the United States must not harbor any illusions regarding a reset in U.S.-Pakistan relations.
S. Paul Kapur is a professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. From 2020-2021, he served on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. The opinions in this article are his alone.
‘We’ve proven to Israel that somebody’s protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque,’ Yahya Sinwar says after Israeli right-wing groups announce they’re planning to hold a Flag March through Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate
Jack KhouryJun. 5, 2021
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said Saturday that Palestinian factions in Gaza used only “half of their force” during the latest round of hostilities with Israel in May, vowing that another escalation would “change the face of the Middle East.”
Speaking before academics and public figures in Gaza, Sinwar said that the latest fighting with Israel was meant only “to test our strength.”
The Islamist leader also mentioned for the first time the death toll among the militant factions in Gaza during the campaign. “Ninety fighters were killed at most in the latest escalation, but Israel aimed at more than 10,000 fighters. Israel planned to assassinate half of the resistance force and failed big time.”
Sinwar stressed the connection between the fighting in Gaza and the violence that erupted in East Jerusalemearlier in May. “We’ve proven to Israel that somebody’s protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a strategic goal for the Palestinians.” He added that the riots that ensued in Jewish-Arab cities in Israel as well as the West Bank “constituted a more significant leverage that the rockets (fired at Israel by Hamas).”
Sinwar’s remarks come after Israeli right-wing organizations said they are planning to hold a Flag March next week through Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate – a flash point of tensions in the lead-up to the Gaza flare-up – and pass through the Arab Quarter on the way to the Western Wall, where mass prayers will be held after the march.
Against the backdrop of the planned march, Hamas called on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem on Saturday to arrive en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque on Thursday “to protect it from (Israel’s) plans.”
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi meanwhile called on Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to cancel the Flag March, citing a risk of “Great danger of violence.”
In an advertisement for the march, the organizations wrote, “We must unite Jerusalem to establish victory! We’re coming back to march through the streets of Jerusalem with our heads held high carrying Israeli flags.”
Moreover, Sinwar criticized the Arab countries that normalized ties with Israel, claiming they are responsible for the flare-up. “The normalization of ties between some Arab countries and Israel and the intra-Palestinian division encouraged Israel to launch this aggression.”
Israeli airstrikes carried out in response to heavy rocket fire at central and southern Israel caused severe destruction in Gaza. Addressing the issue, Sinwar said that “We’ll open the door to all those who support the rebuilding of the Strip, and we won’t use funds earmarked for reconstruction for military needs.”
Sources in Hamas said Friday that the organization has communicated to Israel that if it does not allow the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza by next week, it will renew its protests on the Gaza border – an act that may lead to an additional escalation, just weeks after Israel and Hamas declared a cease-fire.
Qatar pledged $360 million, to be paid out over the course of the year, to the Gaza Strip in January. The money is to be used to pay Hamas salaries, provide financial aid to families in need and to operate the Strip’s power stations.
Since the beginning of the latest Israel-Gaza escalation, no Qatari money has been allowed to pass into Gaza. According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, the Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi clarified to Hamas that Israel is preventing the transfer of funds.
On Monday, Sinwar said that Hamas is ready to immediately engage in negotiations to return Israeli civilians and bodies of soldiers held captive in Gaza.
Sinwar said there had been recent progress on the issue, but that it stopped because of political instability in Israel. “In the coming days we will see discussion in Cairo” in an effort to come to agreements, he said. He also advised people to “(r)emember the number 1,111. You’ll find out later on what it means.”
The bodies of two Israeli soldiers are held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as two Israeli civilians, Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu.
Updated 12 May 2021
May 11, 202120:33
VIENNA: “Fluctuations” at Iran’s Natanz plant pushed the purity to which it enriched uranium to 63 percent, higher than the announced 60 percent that complicated talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.
Iran made the shift to 60 percent, a big step toward nuclear weapons-grade from the 20 percent previously achieved, last month in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel and appears to have damaged its enrichment output at a larger, underground facility there.
Iran’s move rattled the current indirect talks with the United States to agree conditions for both sides to return fully to the 2015 nuclear deal, which was undermined when Washington abandoned it in 2018, prompting Tehran to violate its terms.
The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67 percent fissile purity, far from the 90 percent of weapons-grade. Iran has long denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons.
“According to Iran, fluctuations of the enrichment levels… were experienced,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in the confidential report to its member states, seen by Reuters.
“The agency’s analysis of the ES (environmental samples) taken on 22 April 2021 shows an enrichment level of up to 63 percent U-235, which is consistent with the fluctuations of the enrichment levels (described by Iran),” it added, without saying why the fluctuations had occurred.
A previous IAEA report last month said Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuge machines to enrich to up to 60 percent and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20 percent.
Tuesday’s report said the Islamic Republic was now feeding the tails from the tIR-4 cascade into a cascade of 27 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s centrifuges to refine uranium to up to 5 percent.