Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)

     By WILLIAM K. STEVENSPublished: October 24, 1989
AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.
The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.
But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.
For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”
If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California.Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.
Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.
The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”
On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.
Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.
The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.
No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.
The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.
The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.
Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.
Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower. 
Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California,  said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more  vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.
The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”
 Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.
Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.
Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.
”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.
New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.
Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.
As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.
New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.
”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”
For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.
”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”
In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.
Tunnels Vulnerable
The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.
Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.
”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”
Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?
”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Iran Races to Nuke Up: Daniel 8

Iran in furtive race to develop a nuclear weapon

Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi arrives for a meeting in Vienna on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal on Sunday. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE

June 21 (UPI) — In Iran, more than 315,000 people have died of COVID-19, although the theocratic regime claims the true figure is 82,000. The Iranian economy is in free fall. Some 75% of the population struggle to survive on income that has crashed below the international poverty line and yet the Tehran Times last week claimed that the economy is going to “rebound in 2022.”

In the bizarre fantasy world of Iranian politics, torturers and mass murderers can become president, as the world has seen with the election of Ebrahim Raisi, blacklisted in the United States and European Union for his serial abuse of human rights. Vying for the “stranger than fiction” Academy Award, the regime’s state-run international TV channel Iran Press TV claims ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, are designed to bring “the U.S. back to compliance.” As Mark Twain once famously said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

In Vienna, the nuclear talks have entered their fifth round, with Iran’s allies Russia and China calling for a swift resolution. Russia’s representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, claims an agreement is within reach, while China’s Ambassador Wabg Qun has called for the United States “to stop shilly-shallying by moving decisively to complete and thorough sanction-lifting.”

For Russia and China, ending sanctions and rebooting the nuclear deal is strategically important, enhancing their influence in the Middle East, while undermining the West. The Russians have kept the civil war in Syria going for more than a decade by siding with the Iranian regime in backing Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, China has signed a 25-year $400 billion “Belt & Road” deal with the mullahs, to bypass sanctions imposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump‘s “maximum pressure campaign,” effectively turning Iran into a client state. It would be a grave, historical error were the Biden administration to fall for this deception. They would breathe life into the decaying corpse of the mullahs’ fascist dictatorship.

Far from restoring U.S. compliance with the terms of the JCPOA, the mullahs have openly boasted of their own repeated breaches of the deal. They claim to have enriched uranium to 60% fissile purity, a fraction short of weapons grade, in blatant contravention of the agreement. They have denied site access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly to locations where uranium traces have been found.

Despite clear evidence that the mullahs are continuing secretly to construct a nuclear device and ballistic missiles capable of carrying a primed nuclear warhead, the United States and EU remain ludicrously committed to reinstating the JCPOA without demanding an end to the clerical regime’s destabilizing activities in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq and insisting on an end to repression, torture and executions in Iran. U.S. and EU attempts at appeasement have simply encouraged the mullahs to further aggressive behavior at home and abroad.

New evidence has been revealed by the main democratic opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which has uncovered unusual activity at the Sanjarian nuclear site, 25 miles from Tehran. Satellite images have indicated that covert excavation work has again been undertaken on the site and a new access road has been constructed. The NCRI first revealed the existence of a clandestine nuclear program to the world in 2003, wrong-footing Western intelligence agencies who had failed to unearth the threat.

On May 7, 2019, David Albright, the IAEA’s Action Team associate (1992-97) and the first non-governmental inspector of Iraq’s nuclear program, and Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s operations director (1995-2005), published their joint research about Tehran’s nuclear activities at Sanjarian. They stated: “This site was first publicly identified in 2009 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which called it the ‘Research Center for Explosion and Impact’ near Sanjarian, known under its Farsi language abbreviation METFAZ. The NCRI stated that this site was developing high-explosive detonators for use in atomic bombs and manufacturing components for these detonation systems.”

In May 2019, Yukio Amano, the late IAEA director-general, complained that the regime was refusing the U.N. nuclear watchdog access to the Sanjarian site. The IAEA’s new director-general Rafael Grossi, has echoed his predecessor’s complaints. He told a meeting of the agency’s board of governors on June 7, “The lack of progress in clarifying the agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the IAEA to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Grossi’s frustration with the mullahs’ continuing secrecy should sound the alarm bells for U.S. President Joe Bidenand his Secretary of State Antony Blinken. For the past 20 years, the United States and EU have tried repeatedly to curtail the theocratic regime’s provocative nuclear projects, but the mullahs have responded by cheating and concealing their activities. It is clear that the Iranian regime has never stopped its race to develop a nuclear weapon, before, during and after it signed former U.S. President Barack Obama‘s flawed JCPOA in 2015. For the mullahs, a nuclear weapon and a ballistic missile system capable of delivering it, is a way of holding the West to ransom and a key survival strategy.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be stroking his beard in satisfaction at the departure of his sworn enemy, Benjamin Netanyahu. He will be hoping that Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, will be easier to browbeat. For all his flaws, Netanyahu was savvy with the international military and geopolitical situation and would never tolerate the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran.

On June 7, Blinken expressed his dismay at the mullahs’ nuclear program, stating, “It remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance. Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward…. The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down.”

It seems clear that the clerical regime is intent on buying time, by keeping negotiations on the JCPOA at arms length in Vienna, obstructing the IAEA, while at the same time accelerating its sprint to build a nuclear bomb. By demanding the lifting of all sanctions, the mullahs are attempting to blackmail the West into ignoring its nuclear ambitions, its domestic oppression and its export of terrorism and aggressive expansionism in the region.

Biden and Blinken must realize that the mullahs will always regard attempts at appeasement as a weakness by the West, which they will exploit mercilessly. The theocratic dictatorship only responds to firmness, and it is time for the United States and EU to show some muscle.

Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Iran is Already a Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran ‘enriches 6.5 kg of uranium to 60 percent’

Updated 16 June 2021 

Hebshi Alshammari 

June 15, 2021 11:41

RIYADH: Iran has made 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent, the government said on Tuesday, detailing a move that rattled the country’s nuclear talks with world powers by taking the fissile material closer to the nuclear weapons-grade of 90 percent.

State media reported that government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Iran had also produced 108 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity, indicating quicker output than the rate required by the Iranian law that created the process.

Tehran said in April it would begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, a move that would take it much closer to the 90 percent suitable for a nuclear bomb, after the government accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site, according to Reuters.

Khalid Al-Matrafi, a Saudi political writer, told Arab News that Western powers will not allow the regime to possess nuclear weapons for military use.

He said that the Iranian move is based on attempts to strengthen its position at the negotiating table, especially after the setbacks the regime has recently endured, including the exposure of its nuclear program secrets.

“It is very important to remember that the US has confirmed through various officials that it is consulting its allies in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia, about the talks it is conducting indirectly with Iran, and this will help avoid the mistakes of the previous agreement,” he added.

Al-Matrafi was referring to the deal that was signed in July 2015 under US President Barack Obama. It offered Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for agreeing to curb its nuclear program.

Stressing the need for Iran to abandon its 40-year policy of confrontation, Al-Matrafi said the countries in the region now want to see peace after decades of conflicts.

He said it is difficult for regional powers to coexist alongside a country that regularly reveals its intentions to act in a way that would negatively affect its neighborhood.

Tuesday’s disclosure comes amid Tehran and Washington holding indirect talks in Vienna aimed at finding ways to revive the 2015 deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran’s hard-line parliament passed a law last year to oblige the government to harden its nuclear stance, partly in reaction to former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018.

A quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities by the UN nuclear watchdog in May said that as of May 22, Tehran had produced 62.8 kg of uranium enriched up to 20 percent, and 2.4 kg of uranium enriched up to 60 percent, with the next level down being enriched to between 2 percent and 5 percent, Reuters reported.

Clouds of the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Clouds of nuclear war over S Asia | By Sajjad Shaukat

June 21, 2021

Clouds of nuclear war over S Asia


SINCE Narendar Modi became Indian prime minister, he has been following belligerent policies by ignoring the doctrine of nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis Pakistan and China.

A US intelligence report, entitled ‘The Global Trends’, released on 07 April, this year warned that “nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan might engage in a large-scale war unwittingly”.

The annual threat assessment report–2021 which was prepared by the US government’s National Intelligence Council and also sent to Congress said: “The ability of some militant outfits to conduct attacks, New Delhi’s resolve to retaliate against Islamabad after such an attack and Islamabad’s determination to defend itself are likely to persist and may increase in the next five years…Miscalculation by both governments could prompt a breakdown in the deterrence that has restricted conflict.”

It wrote: “The US policy in Afghanistan is likely to impact the neighbouring countries; especially India and Pakistan…if a security vacuum emerges in Afghanistan that results in a civil war between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents…would fuel political tensions and conflict in western Pakistan and sharpen the India-Pakistan rivalry.”

The report added “India and China may also slip into a conflict that neither government intends, especially if military forces escalate a conflict quickly to challenge each other on a critical part of the contested border.”

Notably, during the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but, they stopped due to the fear of nuclear war which could eliminate both the superpowers.

Likewise, many occasions came between Pakistan and India during the Kargil crisis of 1998, Indian parliament’s attack by the militants in 2001 and particularly in 2008 in the post-Mumbai terror attacks when New Delhi started a blame game against Islamabad in wake of its highly provocative actions like mobilization of troops. Pakistan had also taken defensive steps to meet any prospective aggression.

But, India failed in implementing its war-like designs, because, Pakistan also possesses nuclear weapons.

Now, situation is alarming, as very tensions increased between India and Pakistan, India and China on August 5, 2019, when Indian extremist government revoked articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the disputed territory of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Indian government bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to be ruled by the federal government. New Delhi also issued an infamous map which displayed these divisions.

Besides Pakistan, China also rejected the Indian malicious acts as “unlawful and void”, saying that India’s decision to “include” some of China’s territory into its administrative jurisdiction “challenged” Beijing’s sovereignty.

India had escalated tensions with Islamabad particularly in the aftermath of the false flag terror attack at Puwama in the IIOJK.

On February 27, 2019, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive air strike in the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the IIOJK.

Indian forces had also accelerated shelling inside Pakistani side of Kashmir by violating the ceasefire agreement across the Line of Control (LoC) and compelled Pakistan Army to give a matching reply.

In the recent past, the Director Generals of Military Operations of Pakistan and India had agreed to strictly observe the 2003 ceasefire agreement at the LoC. But, unless resolved, Kashmir will remain a nuclear flashpoint.

Similarly, drastic tensions arose between New Delhi and Beijing on 05 May last year, when India occupied various areas, adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In response, Chinese forces moved into the regions along the eastern Ladakh border and get the disputed territories vacated.

After a number of rounds of talks, India and China completed their withdrawal from the Pangong Tso Lake area on 20 February 2021 in accordance with the agreement, signed by their commanders.

While, other parts of the border remain unsettled, and encouraged by the US President Joe Biden’s anti-China approach, Indian forces are making preparations for an all-out war with China. However, LAC is a nuclear flashpoint between the two countries.

It is mentionable that Indian ex-Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had stated on 29 December 2010 that the Indian army is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 16 August 2019 threatened Pakistan with nuclear war.

On 20 October 2020, hinting towards Islamabad and Beijing, Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval stated: “New India doctrine will take battle to foreign soil.”

In a latest statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who urged the resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions, warned that “any military confrontation between two nuclear powers-Pakistan and India would be a disaster for both countries and the whole world.”

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, DG of ISPR, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, Prime Minister Imran Khana and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have repeatedly stated that Pakistan’s armed forces “are ready to respond any Indian aggression with full might.”

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Lahore.

Violence Renews Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Violence Renews on Temple Mount and in West Bank Amid Escalating Tensions Between Israel and Gaza

Several Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli police after a week of increased violence on the Gaza border.

06/21/2021 9:35 AM

Palestinian worshippers gather rocks to throw at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, June 18, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90 via JTA)

(JTA) — Nine Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount amid escalating tensions on the Gaza border, less than a month after the end of a round of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The clashes on Friday occurred as a crowd of Palestinians exited the Temple Mount, which Muslims revere as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the police, members of the crowd threw rocks at the police officers, who responded by firing sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades.

In addition, a number of Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers outside an Israeli outpost in the northern West Bank. The soldiers fired tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets in that instance as well.

The fighting occurred amid renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, who have repeatedly sent incendiary balloons into Israel this week, sparking fires in farmland and around border towns. Israel conducted multiple rounds of aerial bombing in Gaza in response.

Earlier this week, a crowd of right-wing Israelis marched in Jerusalem’s Old City, with some chanting “Death to Arabs” and other calls for violence. Last month, unrest and clashes in Jerusalem preceded the 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel, in which more than 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.

By Ben Sales

The Antichrist Asserts Iraq’s Solidarity: Revelation 13

Saudi, Iran should leave Iraq out of disputes, respect sovereignty: Sadr

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Monday called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to resolve disputes away from Iraq, and respect the country’s sovereignty.

“This is a call from me to the two dear neighbours (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and (the Islamic Republic) to solve their problems and to get Iraq out of this conflict and not to interfere in its affairs, especially as Iraq is on the verge of elections, which is an internal affair,” Sadr tweeted.

Sadr, who also heads the Sairoon Alliance, the largest bloc in Iraq’s parliament, said that Iraq should maintain balanced relations with both states.

“Iraq has a characteristic that is different from all other countries. In Iraq, two dominant characteristics are combined (Arabism) and (Shiism)….I see today that Iraq is able to be a link between the two parties, with its full independence and sovereignty,” he said.

His tweets come just days after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected the next president of Iran. In his tweets, Sadr said he hopes the president-elect’s appointment will not stoke political and sectarian conflict in the region.

“The arrival of (Mr. Raisi) to power in the republic should not reward the region with extremism and escalation of conflict,” he said.

The cleric also called on both the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to adopt “patriotic orientations” as official members of the Iraqi armed forces.

“They are currently among the Iraqi security formations, meaning that they are obligated to everything we said above, especially in terms of respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, unity, and the prestige of the state.”

The PMF was formed in 2014 upon a fatwa, or religious order, from Iraq’s top Shiite authority to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). Iran-backed factions of the PMF are widely accused of killing and threatening Iraqi activists, as well as attacking Iraqi military bases hosting American troops.

Preparing for the Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

With tension rising in the Pacific, Australia is preparing to fight alongside the US and on its own

  • Australia has announced major investments in its own military capabilities, especially new weapons.
  • Countries in the region bolster their militaries amid heightened tensions between the US and China.
  • Australia is looking for “a combination of integration with the US and greater self-reliance,” one expert told Insider.

As China’s growing military stokes concerns in the Indo-Pacific region, US allies are stepping up their own military modernization efforts.

China’s immediate neighbors, particularly Japan and Taiwan, get most of the attention when it comes to military modernization, but Australia, which has no territorial disputes with Beijing, is also investing heavily in its own armed forces.

Last month, the Australian government announced an economic spending plan that included some $212 billion in defense spending over the next decade.

The spending covers updating basesand acquiring new weapons, including long-range missiles — all meant to increase Australia’s deterrence and combat capabilities and enable it to continue operating smoothly with US forces.

The new plans come amid a sharp decline in Sino-Australian relations, driven by China’s military modernization, its activities in the South China Sea and Australia’s Pacific island neighbors, and Beijing’s efforts to influence and coerce Australia through politicaldiplomatic, and economicpressure.

Australia’s 2020 defense strategic update reflected not only those changes but the pace at which they have happened, according to Arthur Sinodinos, Australia’s ambassador to the US.

“Things were going in the direction we expected. They just happened more quickly than we thought. So it was important to review our strategic defense outlook and work out what to do,” Sinodinos said in response to a question from Insider at an event in February.

Denial and punishment

Australia has already been investing heavily in its military, spending 2.1% of its GDP on defense in 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

That makes it the fifth-largest defense spender in Asia. Amid that modernization effort is an ongoing debate about what weapons will have the best deterrent effect — a relatively new consideration.

“The overall assumptions that guided US and Australian thinking about contingencies in the Pacific were that we would have dominance in a maritime domain, and then it would be a question of where we applied power,” Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.

China’s growing missile arsenal and navy, both of which can cover longer distances, can threaten US allies in the region and the US bases they host.

“The harsh reality is dominance is going to be very hard to sustain in the face of this major Chinese buildup,” Green said.

As a result, the debate has focused on two means of deterrence: by denial, which entails the ability to destroy Chinese ships, subs, and planes; and by punishment, which requires the ability to strike China directly.

Many of the new systems Australia is acquiring fall into the deterrence-by-denial category.

The Royal Australian Air Force has 33 F-35A stealth fighters in service and plans to add another 39 by 2023. The fifth-generation fighter will replace Australia’s aging F/A-18s. The RAAF is also pursuing an unmanned fighter.

The Royal Australian Navy plans to boost its main battle force of three Hobart-class destroyers with nine new Hunter-class frigates. The Hunters are expected to start entering service in the late 2020s, eventually replacing the navy’s eight Anzac-class frigates.

Australia’s navy currently operates six Collins-class guided-missile submarines, and plans to acquire at least 12 new Attack-class diesel-electric submarines. Attack-class subs will be able to fire torpedoes and missiles, like the French Barracuda-class nuclear-powered attack subs on which they’re based.

The Attack-class program has run into a number of problems, and recent reportssuggest that Australian defense officials may choose another design. The Australians hope to have the new subs by the 2030s.

Australia also operates two Canberra-class amphibious assault ships. In addition to amphibious assaults and anti-submarine operations, the Canberras can also respond quickly to natural disasters or crises in the Asia-Pacific, helping build good relations with neighbors and countering China’s efforts to expand its influence.

Fighting alongside the US, not relying on it

The US and Australia have a long history of close military cooperation. 

An Australian general was the first non-American to command US troops, leading them into the Battle of Hamel in July 1918. Since then, Australia has fought alongside the US in every major American conflict, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Australia’s strong relationship with the US has meant it can focus on building an arsenal for deterrence by denial while relying on Washington to provide deterrence by punishment.

But Australia is working hard to develop capabilities — such as long-range anti-ship and air-defense missiles and hypersonic missiles — that will allow it to strike distant Chinese targets. Those systems may eventually evolve and give Canberra its own deterrence-by-punishment capabilities, reducing its reliance on the US in a crisis.

Australia is one of the US’s few “real regional war-fighting-capable” allies in the Indo-Pacific, said Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific Security chair at the Hudson Institute.

In its pursuit of new weaponry, Canberra is looking for “a combination of integration with the US and greater self-reliance and hedging on the part of Australia,” Cronin told Insider.

The new weaponry is essential, as China’s military capabilities pose a significant risk.

“The US and Australian militaries are having hard discussions about real scenarios in Asia that they didn’t have 20 years ago,” Green said.

One such scenario is an invasion of Taiwan. Australia hasn’t made any concrete commitments to Taiwan’s defense but many expect it would play a role if China tries to seize the island. That likely complicates Chinese military planning.

“If you’re in China’s seat … you’re thinking you’ve got to knock out Australia one way or the other,” Cronin said. “Knock out their satellites, threaten them to deter them from acting together [with the US], intimidate them, do what you have to do.”

Australia has resisted Chinese threats in the past, and the military investments it’s making now are an acknowledgement that more is needed to resist them in the future.

“We’re upping the amount we spend on high-technology weapons, precision-guided missiles, and the rest,” Sinodinos said at the event in February. “What that has done is, I think, shown our credibility, that we’re not an ally that just wants to glide through on the coattails of someone else.”