January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Times article two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
Though some of the cleric’s rivals see opportunity in his withdrawal, others believe Sadr will do everything he can to disrupt October’s polls
When Muqtada al-Sadr last month announced his movement would not be participating in Iraq’s upcoming October elections, many of his rivals saw an opportunity. But others are far warier about the effects the Sairoon Alliance’s withdrawal will have.
For Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and other political forces, Sadr’s decision raises questions about Iraq’s ability to hold the elections at all, officials, politicians, and analysts told Middle East Eye (MEE).
There are serious concerns that the security situation will be destabilised in the coming weeks and the political vacuum left by Sadr could cause chaos, they said.
Sadr cited the need “to save the homeland that the corrupt have burnt and are still burning” when he announced his candidates’ withdrawal on TV on 15 July. His politicians are yet to formally cancel their candidacy, but they’ve all ceased campaigning and declared they will obey Sadr’s decision.
‘Technically, we are more prepared to hold elections than ever before, but politically, there is confusion’
– Senior politician close to Kadhimi
The Shia cleric has a loyal following of around five million supporters – many of whom are now expected not to vote.
He also controls one of the largest paramilitaries and about half of the senior and middle-ranking government positions.
The boycott of his supporters and allies would immediately allow questions to be asked about the elections’ integrity, particularly as it is likely to depress the vote significantly.
Were the polls to go ahead, his supporters may see them as a challenge to Sadr himself, which officials worry could spark violence and demonstrations in Baghdad and the southern provinces.
“Technically, we are more prepared to hold elections than ever before, but politically, there is confusion,” a senior Iraqi official close to Kadhimi told MEE, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“If we hold the elections on its current date [10 October], they will be successful from a technical point of view, but it will be disastrous from a political point of view due to the absence of major forces,” he added.
“The Sadrists are one of the major political forces that cannot be ignored or proceeded without. At least to protect the outcomes of the electoral process and ensure the stability of the upcoming parliament and government and their representation for all.”
The blaze was preceded by the bombing of dozens of power transmission towers, which led to a near-total electricity outage in several governorates for several days, as summer temperatures rose to nearly 50 degrees Celsius.
Both the health and electricity ministries are controlled by Sadrists, and those disasters sparked a torrent of criticism on TV stations and social media accounts owned by Sadr’s rivals, which blamed his movement for the incidents, saying they were caused by corruption, disregard for people’s lives and a total lack of accountability.
Sadr’s sudden rejection of the election was quickly perceived as a response to this ferocious criticism – a “dirty war waged by his rivals on the people to embarrass him and his followers” as a prominent Sadrist leader put it.
“The [media] attack on us was unprecedented, and the electoral struggle has become bloody and dirty. They [Sadr’s rivals] were targeting innocents to bring us down politically,” he alleged.
“We decided to withdraw in order to stop this bleeding and to expose their nakedness and to prove to the people that we have no control over what is going on.”
Filling the void
Assuming the elections go ahead, all of Sadr’s Shia opponents will be boosted by his candidates’ absence.
They expect to pick up more seats, especially in Shia-dominated areas such as Baghdad and Iraq’s centre and south.
The State of Law coalition led by former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr’s arch-foe, and the candidates of the Iranian-backed armed factions, the cleric’s traditional rivals, would be the biggest beneficiaries of his boycott of the elections.
Now, they are planning to take advantage of the situation and campaign in Sadr areas that they would never have previously dared, politicians and observers told MEE.
“Maliki and the loyalists [Iranian-backed parties] are the biggest beneficiaries of our withdrawal. They are currently seeking to hold elections without us,” the Sadrist leader said.
“But they will not succeed. Otherwise, they will have to face what will happen. There are no elections without the Sadrists, no parliament, no government. The street will not calm down and Kadhimi will not dare to hold elections without our participation.”
Sadrist candidates who are resentful they cannot now run for parliament but wary of speaking out against their leader have instead begun promoting the idea that the elections should be postponed until April, to ensure their participation.
The cleric’s rivals, meanwhile, insist on holding the polls on time, arguing that Sadr isn’t seriously boycotting the elections and he is likely to reverse the decision at any moment.
In 2014, the cleric played the same trick ahead of that year’s elections, only to row back on his decision two months later.
Besides, Sadr’s rivals argue, there is overwhelming popular enthusiasm for the October elections, and all the legal framework to hold the polls has already been put in place.
“Sadr’s retreat from his decision to boycott the elections will not be strange or new, as he has already done it several times over the past years,” a State of Law leader said.
“His candidates have not submitted formal requests to the Electoral Commission to withdraw their candidacy. If [Sadr] was serious about his decision, he would ask them to formally withdraw.”
Over the past year, Sadr and his followers have promoted the idea that the next election will see his movement snatch 100 of the 329 seats in parliament and even see one of them become prime minister.
If they don’t, they argued, the elections will have been rigged.
The State of Law leader believes this fear will not materialise but it has put Sadr off running altogether.
“Whether he regrets his decision or not, he lost the bet and has proven that he and his followers are incapable of winning half the number of seats they promised,” he said.
Sadr’s rivals were provoked by his assertions that a Sadrist was set to become prime minister. So when disasters struck sectors under Sadrist control, his opponents quickly linked them to Sadrists’ corruption and negligence.
‘Sadr and his political movement have been controlling around a half of the government and other authorities. They will not simply give up all of this’
– Prominent Shia politician
When he withdrew, Sadr’s opponents then said he was only bowing out because his candidates were projected to win just 32-34 seats in parliament, far fewer than the number he predicted himself.
His decision to boycott the elections was seen as “a tactic to evade his promises and save face”, a prominent leader of the al-Hikma Movement told MEE.
Privately, Sadrist leaders do not hide that they are betting on chaos and violence, which they believe will hit the streets before election day and force the government and Sadr’s opponents to postpone the elections.
“Whatever the upcoming election results, it will lead to a redistribution of powers, positions, influence, and money among the winners,” a prominent Shia politician told MEE.
“Sadr and his political movement have been controlling around half of the government and other authorities. They will not simply give up all of this, even if this is Sadr’s by desire. Those [Sadrist leaders] have commitments, contracts, commissions, and mass bases that are waiting for them to continue to keep the spoon in their mouths,” he added.
“Preventing them from participating in the elections and threatening all these privileges will provoke their wrath against Sadr himself, and they will translate this into pressure on everyone, including Sadr.”
Postponement is not an option
Yet, as things stand, such a delay is far from an option for Iraq’s government and the international community.
Primarily this is because of the time and money spent preparing for them and getting the electoral law into place, officials told MEE.
“The early elections cannot be postponed now. Postponement means that all technical steps will be repeated anew. Perhaps we will even witness demands to amend or cancel the election law,” an official close to Kadhimi told MEE.
“These procedures may take a year or more. This means that the option to postpone the elections is closer to the idea of canceling, and this is what the prime minister does not want.”
According to the official, Kadhimi, who is not running in the next election, wants all the main forces to participate and ensure a smooth transfer of power. Sadr’s absence threatens this, he warned.
“The prime minister is very concerned and is currently seeking to find a settlement with the participation of the [political] forces that support him, to reassure Sadr and reduce the severity of the attacks on him and his followers, and convince him to retract his decision,” he said.
“Everyone knows that the Sadrists will not withdraw from the political scene quietly and will not allow elections to take place without them. Sadr’s followers will burn the streets if necessary, and everyone must understand that there is no real profit to be gotten from the Sadrists boycotting the elections, and there will be no stability, therefore action must be taken on this basis.”
Russian leader gives orders for 2 subs armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles at arms show designed to showcase Moscow’s military might and attract foreign customers
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOVToday, 4:36 am
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday launched the construction of new nuclear submarines and other warships, part of a sweeping military modernization effort amid tensions with the West.
Speaking in a video call, Putin gave orders for two nuclear submarines armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles along with two diesel-powered submarines and two corvettes at shipyards in Severodvinsk, St. Petersburg and Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
“We will continue to boost the potential of the Russian navy, develop its bases and infrastructure, arm it with state-of-the-art weapons,” Putin said. “A strong and sovereign Russia needs a powerful and well-balanced navy.”
The Kremlin has made military modernization a top priority as relations with the West have plunged to post-Cold War lows after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Moscow has sought to reestablish a regular naval presence in parts of the world that the Soviet Union had during the Cold War.
The Russian navy already has a major presence in the Mediterranean Sea, with a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus. It has expanded and modified the Tartus base, the only such facility that Russia currently has outside the former Soviet Union.
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“We will continue to show the Russian flag in strategically important ocean areas,” Putin said.
Monday’s ceremony for the new ships was part of the Army-2021 show intended to showcase military might and attract foreign customers for Russia’s arms industries. The weeklong show features aircraft, tanks, missiles and other weapons.
“Many of our weapons have the capabilities that have no analogues in the world, and some will remain unrivaled for a long time to come,” Putin said.
By James Crump On 8/24/21 at 12:36 PM EDT
Russia’s Defense Ministry has signed a deal with a contractor to deliver Tsirkon hypersonic missiles to Russian troops by 2025, as President Vladimir Putinhas vowed to put the weapons on “combat alert.”
“A government contract on the delivery of the 3M22 missile (the Tsirkon hypersonic missile) has been signed,” the defense ministry said in a statement shared with Russian state news agency TASS on Tuesday.
“The contract has been handed to CEO of the Research and Production Association of Machine-Building Alexander Leonov at the [Army-2021] international military-technical forum.”
Speaking to TASS at the forum on Tuesday, Leonov confirmed that “the contract on Tsirkon missiles will be fulfilled by 2025. The missile has been standardized and can be used both from surface ships and submarines. The only difference is in the launcher used on surface ships or submarines.”
The Russian state agency reported that Putin had earlier said that the missile would go on “combat alert” soon.
The multi-purpose missile, which is developed by the rocket design bureau NPO Mashinostroyenia, is claimed to have been designed to strike targets on land and sea from over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away and is capable of flying nine times the speed of sound.
In July, the defense ministry announced the successful launch from its Admiral Gorshkov warship of the missile, which it said traveled at seven times the speed of sound and was fired from the White Sea to hit its target more than 200 miles away on the Barents Sea.
“During the tests, the tactical and technical characteristics of the Zircon missile were confirmed,” the defense ministry said as it posted a video from the launch to its social media channels.
Russia later said that it was hopeful that it could equip its submarines and surface ships with the Tsirkon missile system, and has reportedly scheduled tests of the weapon from a submarine carrier at the end of August.
Although initial reports suggested that the tests would occur in June, TASS reported in early August that the missile will be tested from the Northern Fleet’s Yasen-class Severodvinsk nuclear-powered submarine by the end of this month.
“Flight design tests of the Tsirkon rocket from Severodvinsk will begin at the end of August. It is planned to complete several launches before the White Sea freezes over,” a source told the agency.
The Tsirkon missile has been repeatedly touted by Putin as being part of a new generation of missile systems he claims are more advanced than any other country’s weapons.
Russia previously tested a launch of the Tsirkon missile on Putin’s birthday on October 7, 2020, with him describing it as a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia.”
Putin added he believed Russia’s weapons are unequaled anywhere in the world and “will without doubt in the long term boost the defense capabilities of our state.”
Newsweek has contacted the U.S. Department of Defense for comment.
In a chaotic region like South Asia, strategic stability is exclusively reliant on a consistent deterrence equation between adversaries. India has been investing much in modernizing and upgrading its military posture. It has spent billions of dollars in recent years to purchase the latest fighter jets, cruisers, missiles, submarines, and other heavy military equipment, making it the world’s largest weapons importer.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is obligated to take essential measures to counter any Indian misadventure, secure its mainland from Indian aggression, and avoid all-out wars with India without engaging in an expensive arms race. Pakistan’s nuclear capability has played a critical role in sustaining the deterrence equation against militarily superior India, in this regard.
Nuclear deterrence in South Asia has been unfortunately challenged due to remarkable changes in India’s security posture over time. India’s military posturing is built on the perception of “strategic fear” emanating from Pakistan. Ironically, China was not considered as a threat when India’s nuclear programme began. It was the prestige factor that pushed India to follow the nuclear path. There was no imminent nuclear threat to India when it embarked upon nuclear journey.
In response to India’s hegemonic ambitions, Pakistan had to raise well-equipped military to provide an effective deterrence. The Indian notion of war below the nuclear threshold has adversely affected the strategic stability of the South Asian region, leading to a never-ending arms race. India’s aggressive plans have shifted the power balance in India’s favour, which must be acknowledged before the gap worsens. To counter India’s increasing threats, Pakistan will have to upgrade both its military and nuclear capabilities.
India continues to pose the risk of false flag operation as a result of territorial conflicts such as Kashmir, and the hostility in bilateral relations remains deep. As a result, the risk of a nuclear war in South Asia is substantially higher than anywhere else on the planet. However, unlike in the past, any future conflict between the two countries, no matter how little, will have the potential to escalate into nuclear brinkmanship.
Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on Credible Minimum Deterrence, and the country has successfully maintained nuclear deterrence against far larger adversary, India, without engaging in an arms race.
Pakistan is not oblivious to the region’s developing security dynamics. Pakistan is well aware of the regional implications of the Indian strategic cooperation with western countries, as well as their impact on the South Asian environment. Apparently, the Indo-US strategic alignments are aimed against China, but in reality, Pakistan would be most affected. A route towards an endless arms race in the region under the BJP government will be costly for India and its negative consequences will jolt New Delhi’s warmongering caucus sooner or later.
August 24 2021 – 3:57PM
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the air strikes that targeted what the military said was a weapons production facility and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza.
Since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire halted 11 days of Israel-Hamas fighting in May, Gaza militants have sporadically sent balloons carrying incendiary material into Israel, drawing Israeli strikes on Hamas facilities.
Palestinians say the balloons are aimed at pressing Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza and allow aid to reach the territory. Balloons launched on Monday set off fires in Israeli fields along the Gaza border, Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said.
Cross-border violence has spiked despite an Israeli announcement last week of a resumption of Qatari aid to Gaza, a decision that had been seen as bolstering the fragile truce.
Confronting Gaza protesters burning tyres and throwing explosives along the border on Saturday, Israeli troops shot and wounded 41 Palestinians, critically injuring two, medics said. Palestinian gunfire seriously wounded an Israeli soldier, the military said.
Days before Saturday’s violence, Gaza militants launched a rocket towards Israel that was shot down by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, in the first such attack since the May 21 ceasefire.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 15-year-old was killed overnight in a clash with Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli military said its troops came under fire during an arrest raid near the city of Nablus.
A soldier opened fire on a suspect who was about to throw a large object at the forces from a rooftop, the military said, and “identified a hit”.
The health ministry said a 15-year-old Palestinian was killed in the confrontation.
More than 250 Palestinians and 13 in Israel were killed in the May conflict, during which Gaza militants fired rockets towards Israeli cities and Israel carried out air strikes across the coastal enclave.
Israel keeps Gaza under blockade, tightly restricting movement out of the territory that is home to 2 million Palestinians. Egypt also maintains restrictions on the enclave. Both cite threats from Hamas for the restrictions.
Australian Associated Press
Aug 23, 2021
JERUSALEM (AP) — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks that “apparently amount to war crimes” during an 11-day war in May against the Hamas militant group.
The international human rights organization issued its conclusions after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. It said “there were no evident military targets in the vicinity” of the attacks.
The report also accused Palestinian militants of apparent war crimes by launching over 4,000 unguided rockets and mortars at Israeli population centers. Such attacks, it said, violate “the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.”
The report, however, focused on Israeli actions during the fighting, and the group said it would issue a separate report on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in August.
“Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby,” said Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW.
He said Israel’s “consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes,” coupled with Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilian areas, underscored the importance of an ongoing investigation into both sides by the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
In a statement, the Israeli army said its attacks were aimed at military targets and that it took numerous precautions to avoid harming civilians. It said Hamas is responsible for civilian casualties because it launches attacks from residential areas.
“While the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip deliberately embed their military assets in densely populated civilian areas, the IDF takes every feasible measure to minimize, as much as possible, the harm to civilians and civilian property,” it said.
The war erupted on May 10 after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, built on a contested site sacred to Jews and Muslims, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers in a nearby neighborhood. Israel has said it struck over 1,000 targets during the fighting.
In all, some 254 people were killed in Gaza, including at least 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants, while Israel has claimed the number is much higher. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.
The HRW report looked into Israeli airstrikes. The most serious, on May 16, involved a series of strikes on Al-Wahda Street, a central thoroughfare in downtown Gaza City. The airstrikes destroyed three apartment buildings and killed a total of 44 civilians, HRW said, including 18 children and 14 women. Twenty-two of the dead were members of a single family, the al-Kawlaks.
The Israeli military said the attacks were aimed at tunnels used by Hamas militants in the area. The airstrikes unexpectedly caused nearby buildings to colapse, leading to “unintended casualties,” it said.
In its investigation, HRW concluded that Israel had used U.S.-made GBU-31 precision-guided bombs, and that it did not warn residents to evacuate the area ahead of time. It also found no evidence of military targets in the area.
“An attack that is not directed at a specific military objective is unlawful,” it wrote.
The investigation also looked at a May 10 explosion that killed eight people, including six children, near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It said the two adults were civilians.
In its statement, the Israeli military said the casualties were caused by errant rocket fire launched by militant groups, not Israeli airstrikes. It released aerial photos of what it said was the launch site, some 7.5 kilometers (4.5 miles) away, and the landing area. It also said it did not carry out any strikes in the area at the time of the explosion.
But based on an analysis of munition remnants and witness accounts, HRW said evidence indicated the weapon had been “a type of guided missile” used by Israel.
The New York-based group said that Israel refused to allow its investigators to enter Gaza. Instead, it said it relied on a field researcher based in Gaza, along with satellite images, expert reviews of photos of munitions fragments and interviews conducted by video and telephone.
The third attack HRW investigated occurred on May 15, in which an Israeli airstrike destroyed a three-story building in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp. The strike killed 10 people, including two women and eight children.
Israel said the target was a group of senior Hamas officials hiding in an apartment, and that the civilian deaths were unintended and “under review.”
But Human Rights Watch said it found no evidence of a military target at or near the site and called for an investigation into whether there was a legitimate military objective and “all feasible precautions” were taken to avoid civilian casualties. HRW investigators concluded the building was hit by a U.S.-made guided missile.
The May conflict was the fourth war between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group, which opposes Israel’s existence, seized control of Gaza in 2007. Human Rights Watch, other rights groups and U.N. officials have accused both sides of committing war crimes in all of the conflicts.
Early this year, HRW accused Israel of being guilty of international crimes of apartheid because of discriminatory polices toward Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel rejected the accusations.
In Tuesday’s report, HRW called on the United States to condition security assistance to Israel on it taking “concrete and verifiable actions” to comply with international human rights law and to investigate past abuses.
It also called on the ICC to include the recent Gaza war in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militants. Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and says it is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its army and that the ICC probe is unfair and politically motivated.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Bassem Naim called for Israeli leaders to be brought before “international tribunals.” He also claimed that the Hamas rocket fire was a “legitimate right to resist the occupation.”