Wait, we can get the Sixth Seal? Revelation 6:12

Wait, we can get earthquakes in Western New York?

WEATHER BLOG

by: Christine GregoryPosted: May 28, 2021 / 12:40 PM EDT / Updated: May 28, 2021 / 02:34 PM EDT

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The short answer to that is, yes! And Thursday evening was a prime example of that.

At approximately 8:41 P.M., residents from Livingston County reported feeling the light tremor. It occurred about 30 miles southeast of Batavia and rated a 2.4 in magnitude on the Richter scale. USGS confirms earthquake reported in Livingston County

We typically don’t think of New York state for having earthquakes, but they certainly are capable of having them. 

Upon my own investigation, there does appear to be an existing fault line right nearby where the quake happened that may have contributed to the light tremor, but it is not confirmed by official sources.

The Clarendon-Linden fault line consists of a major series of faults that runs from Lake Ontario to Allegany county, that are said to be responsible for much of the seismic activity that occurs in the region. It is a north-south oriented fault system that displays both strike-slip and dip-slip motion. 

Strike-Slip Fault

Dip-Slip Fault

Clarendon-Linden Fault System

Image courtesy: glyfac.buffalo.edu

This fault is actively known for minor quakes, but is said to not be a large threat to the area. According to Genesee county, researchers have identified many potential fault lines both to the east, and to the west of the Clarendon-Linden Fault.

According to the University at Buffalo, they have proof that upstate New York is criss-crossed by fault lines. Through remote sensing by satellite and planes, a research group found that “there are hundreds of faults throughout the Appalachian Plateau, some of which may have been seismically active — albeit sporadically — since Precambrian times, about 1 billion years ago.”

The state of New York averages about a handful of minor earthquakes every year. In Western New York in December of 2019, a 2.1 earthquake occurred near Sodus Point over Lake Ontario, and in March of 2016, a 2.1 earthquake occurred near Attica in Genesee county. 

For an interactive map of recent earthquakes from the USGS click HERE.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Arming the German Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Germany and the Future of NATO Nuclear Sharing

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from “Policy Roundtable: The Future of Trans-Atlantic Nuclear Deterrence” from our sister publication, the Texas National Security Review. Be sure to check out the full roundtable.

Nuclear weapons have made a return to the top of the agenda of world politics. All major nuclear powers have begun to invest in new capabilities or to modernize their arsenals. At the same time, attempts to curb nuclear proliferation have had, at best, a limited effect, while new technologies may undermine the assumptions on which traditional nuclear strategies have been based. With old rules eroding and new challenges emerging, a “second nuclear age,” marked by more actors and likely less stability, is taking shape.

Nevertheless, critics of nuclear deterrence are gaining ground in Western societies. The abolitionist movement, spearheaded by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, has stressed the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapon use and has attempted to outlaw nuclear weapons. On Jan. 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weaponsentered into force. It is unclear what its consequences will be, as all existing nuclear-weapon states have rejected the treaty and most of the 50 participants are smaller countries. However, the treaty has already changed the debate in Western societies, particularly in Europe. What the late Michael Howard described in the early 1980s has become an even greater challenge today. The fact that engaging in deterrence is now seen by many as more dangerous than deterrence failure may result, as Howard wrote almost 40 years ago, from

the degree to which we Europeans have abandoned the primary responsibility for our defense to the United States; have come to take the deterrence provided by others for granted; and now assume that the dangers against which we once demanded reassurance only now exist in the fevered imagination of our protectors.

In other words, extended deterrence has become too successful, undermining its very foundations — the perceived need of protection.Become a Member

Together, this twin challenge puts NATO leaders in a tough spot. They not only have to respond to new nuclear challenges posed by adversaries, but they need to deal with domestic constituencies that are skeptical of nuclear deterrence. While it was far from easy to shore up domestic support for nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, as the Euromissiles crisis in the early 1980s demonstrated, it will likely be even more difficult to do so today. The transatlantic alliance is more heterogeneous than in the past, with some allies promoting a strengthening of NATO’s nuclear posture and others flirting with supporters of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The ongoing debate about the future of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement suggests that NATO policy rests on shakier grounds than often assumed. There is thus a real risk of a new nuclear crisis that could severely hamper NATO’s ability to deter or even endanger the long-term health of the alliance.

Unfortunately, NATO leaders are woefully unprepared for such a crisis. For a long time, many of them have preferred not to talk too much about nuclear deterrence. Apart from the general nod to the existence of nuclear weapons and NATO’s self-understanding as a “nuclear alliance” in official documents or summit declarations, nuclear weapons have hardly been discussed publicly. For many, nuclear deterrence seemed to be a relic of the Cold War. And those who believed it was important not to scrap it often preferred not to discuss it, thinking it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie. The deterioration of NATO’s security environment, as well as the rise of the abolitionist movement in Western societies, have arguably made this strategy unsustainable.

Officially, of course, NATO member states have repeatedly underlined their commitment to nuclear deterrence. Most allies hosting U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons have decided to invest in new dual-capable aircraft. Yet, both public opinion and significant portions of the elites in several NATO member states have become skeptical of NATO’s reliance on nuclear deterrence. According to a 2019 survey for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, public opinion in the four E.U. states that host U.S. nuclear weapons tends to support the removal of these weapons and is highly critical of the idea of equipping new fighter jets with a nuclear capacity.

The Risks of a German Exit

This view is particularly pronounced in Germany. A 2020 public opinion poll for the Munich Security Conference found that two-thirds (66 percent) of Germans supported the position that Germany should completely abandon nuclear deterrence. While the German government’s 2016 white paper on security policy — the Weißbuch, which is similar to America’s national security strategy — stresses the continued necessity of nuclear deterrence as long as nuclear weapons exist, it maintains that “the strategic nuclear capabilities of NATO, and in particular those of the United States, are the ultimate guarantee of the security of its members,” and underlines that “Germany continues to be an integral part of NATO’s nuclear policy and planning” through nuclear sharing, several prominent politicians have recently questioned the acquisition of new dual-capable aircraft needed to replace the ageing Tornados.

The junior partner in the current coalition, the Social Democratic Party, has repeatedly delayed a decision on a Tornado replacement, leading German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to announce her plan to buy American F-18s without being sure whether the Bundestag would support it. The Green Party, which has surpassed the Social Democrats in the polls, has its roots in the peace movement and calls for “a Germany free of nuclear weapons” and “a broad public debate about outdated deterrence doctrines of the Cold War” in its most recent party manifesto (although influential parts of the party argue for some flexibility). As a parliamentary majority without the Greens or the Social Democrats is highly unlikely, this issue will almost certainly be a stumbling block in coalition negotiations after the elections for the Bundestag in September 2021.

Proponents of a withdrawal of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons from German soil argue that it would make Germany and Europe more secure and downplay the potential risks of such a decision. For them, Berlin’s refusal to continually host U.S. nuclear weapons and invest in the next generation of dual-capable aircraft would neither mean the end of nuclear sharing nor undermine NATO cohesion. They often try to distinguish between the so-called technical and political elements of nuclear sharing, arguing that ending the former would not necessarily affect the latter. Pointing to states such as Canada or Greece that once hosted U.S. nuclear weapons but got rid of them a long time ago and still participate in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group, they argue that Germany would still be able to influence NATO nuclear strategy, that the United States would still be willing to protect NATO, and that NATO and the nuclear sharing arrangement as such would continue to exist and function well.

These arguments are based on rather heroic assumptions. First, they assume that it does not matter what you bring to the table. According to Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the Social Democrats in the Bundestag, a withdrawal of non-strategic nuclear weapons from Germany “would not result in the end of the American nuclear guarantee nor of Germany’s say in nuclear matters … as it would still be guaranteed through its membership in the Nuclear Planning Group.” Yet, it would be very surprising if those states that actively contributed to NATO’s nuclear sharing mission didn’t have more influence than other member states. After all, it is well known that those NATO members that provide troops to allied operations (in particular those that carry special risks) have more influence on NATO strategy for a given operation than other member states.

Second, they implicitly or explicitly argue that it would not make much of a difference for the security provider, the United States, whether their protégésparticipate in the arrangement or not. After all, they argue, the United States does not need the few non-strategic nuclear weapons on European soil to provide effective deterrence for the whole of NATO. According to the critics, these weapons are militarily useless, because there is no realistic scenario for their use. Yet, many military experts disagree. They maintain that even the current generation of jet fighters could successfully carry out their mission. Moreover, from this perspective, jet fighters carrying gravity bombs provide a lot of operational flexibility and are valuable tools for strategic communication.

It could also be argued that these non-strategic nuclear weapons never really had much military use in a narrow sense. Rather, they have always been political symbols, linking European security to American security. It is important to recognize, though, that “symbolic” does not mean politically unimportant. In contrast, nuclear sharing has also meant reassurance and risk sharing. However, as former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, notes, reassurance works both ways: “it’s a two-way street.” For the United States, it will thus make a huge political difference whether U.S. allies are willing to continue to share the risks associated with the nuclear umbrella. In an article for Der Spiegel, two experienced Europe hands, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Jim Townsend, warned in no uncertain terms that “Germany walking away from this vow to share the nuclear burden, this expression of solidarity and risk sharing, strikes at the heart of the trans-Atlantic bargain.”

Third, the German proponents of a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons underestimate the role of their own country. Germany, after all, is not just another member state. To begin with, the country’s role in NATO was a major reason for the very creation of this special arrangement. Its departure from NATO’s technical nuclear sharing arrangement would very likely trigger other “exits” and lead to transatlantic disruption. While the nuclear sharing arrangement may survive a Belgian or Dutch exit, it is hard to imagine that a German withdrawal would not bring about a general crisis of nuclear sharing. According to Flournoy and Townsend, “the bargain sustaining U.S. extended nuclear deterrence to Europe would collapse and the U.S. umbrella would essentially be decoupled from Europe.” At a time of upheaval for the transatlantic alliance and ongoing discussions about a potential “decoupling,” this promises to be a dangerous strategy with potentially far-reaching consequences.

The Road Ahead: How Can We Avoid Transatlantic Nuclear Disruption?

As the past few years have shown, a reactive communication strategy that tries to protect a very fragile elite consensus without rocking the boat is apparently not enough. Those in the strategic community who still believe that nuclear deterrence remains indispensable will have to make the case for it and be ready to engage in moral and ethical discussions. They should not be afraid of a debate with those who think that unilateral disarmament is the safer strategy. After all, the case can be made that supporting NATO cohesion and limited nuclear deterrence is the more promising path toward risk reduction, disarmament, and peaceful relations in the long run.

Most importantly, they need to be clear in communicating the risks of a unilateral end to nuclear sharing. They should also highlight the meager benefits of unilateral disarmament when other states are investing in new nuclear capabilities and doctrinal developments. In particular, Berlin’s allies need to pay attention to the German debate and stress the potential damage of Germany pushing for the withdrawal of U.S. non-strategic weapons. Germans may be less receptive to arguments about nuclear strategy, but they may listen to warnings that the end of nuclear sharing would present a major threat to multilateralism and could pave the way for a renationalization of security policy.

At the same time, proponents of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangement will also have to make clear that they take seriously the valid points made by those concerned with the very real risks that come with nuclear weapons. For large parts of the Western public, it is far from self-evident today that relying on nuclear deterrence is indeed the best strategy to deal with a deteriorating security environment. Consequently, NATO leaders should engage with critics’ concerns that the alliance is just sticking with a dangerous relic from the Cold War because it does not know what else to do. They should also be open to thinking through potential alternatives to the current arrangement (which dates back to the 1960s) that would be able to fulfill the same role (i.e., serving as a link between U.S. and European security). And they need to find ways to combine efforts to maintain a necessary level of deterrence with a sincere commitment to nuclear risk reduction, arms control, and disarmament.

For instance, NATO leaders should be open to discussing proposals such as a five-year moratorium, during which neither Russia nor NATO would deploy new “destabilizing weapons to Europe until 2025,” giving NATO time to reassess the nuclear status quo and test Russia’s willingness to seriously consider mutual arms reductions. Likewise, following in the footsteps of NATO’s traditional dual-track strategy, they should also be open to adapting their capabilities if the security environment continues to erode further. Germany, in any case, would do well to discuss the difficult questions relating to the future of nuclear security within NATO, instead of incrementally phasing out its participation in the nuclear sharing arrangement.

After all, without NATO cohesion, neither deterrence nor security will be achieved. Alliance management and balancing different assurance and deterrence needs within NATO will be major challenges for the coming years. Given the very heterogeneous threat perceptions and policy preferences within the alliance, discussions on the nuclear components of NATO’s next strategic concept and on a potential update of the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review of 2012 will be difficult.

For a complete denial of deterrence, however, the transatlantic alliance will very likely be punished. A metaphor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once used in a completely different case may also apply to the nuclear umbrella: “throwing out [something] when it has worked and is continuing to work … is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”Become a Member

Tobias Bunde is a postdoctoral researcher at the Hertie School’s Centre for International Security in Berlin. He also serves as the director of research and policy at the Munich Security Conference.

This article was drafted for a workshop titled “Transatlantic Disruption” at Perry World House, the University of Pennsylvania’s global affairs hub. The workshop was made possible by the Shapiro Global Workshop on Geopolitics Fund and Carnegie Corporation of New York. The author would like to thank the workshop participants as well as Christian Ruhl, Megan Oprea, and Freddy Ludtke for very helpful comments on a previous version of this article. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author

Iran CANNOT be denuclearised: Daniel 8

A nuclear Iran looks very likely unless there is either regime change, or Teheran’s rulers feels they are threatened with imminent regime change (Credit: Shutterstock)

Can Iran be denuclearised?

While negotiations in Vienna between the US and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program appear to be heading nowhere, Teheran keeps edging ever closer to achieving nuclear weapons.

In recent history there are a few examples of countries that were denuclearised, either because they decided to do so or were forced to. What can we learn from these past cases about the chances of denuclearising Iran today?

Is there a way for the international community to force the rogue yet sovereign government in Teheran to abandon what it sees as its nuclear strategic asset – viewed by the regime as an insurance policy safeguarding its survival?

External threats a primary motivator

Except for the first atomic bombs in history, dropped by the US on Japan in 1945 to force its surrender, countries have sought or acquired nuclear weapons mostly to deter external threats. During the Cold War, the US, UK and France feared the Soviets and China, and vice versa, and all ended up with nuclear weapons. In the 1970s, India and Pakistan obtained nuclear weapons to neutralise each other. North Korea (2000s) developed nuclear weapons to counter US power in east Asia. In the late 1970s, South Africa chose to obtain a clandestine nuclear capability after the country’s Apartheid-era white leadership felt isolated and anxious because of developments in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique.

The rise of Israel as an alleged nuclear power since the late 1960s – a decision also driven by a strong sense of external threat – was one important factor driving some Arab countries to seek nuclear capabilities. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein explained in 1978 that he was building a reactor so “[the Arabs] should have the atom [bomb] …When … they [Israel tells] us, ‘We will hit you with the atom,’ we will say, ‘We will hit you with the atom too.’” Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi also reportedlysought various weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, from the early 1970s onward in response to Israel’s capabilities.

Denuclearisation successes and failures

International sanctions contributed to, but were not the dominant factor, in South Africa’s choice to relinquish atomic weapons in the early 1990s. That choice was part of an internal process of regime change which concluded with the abolition of Apartheid. Critical to the decision to denuclearise was a diminished external regional threat after a US-brokered settlement of the Angolan War, and Namibian independence.

Libya endured similar sanctions for years yet held firmly to its weapons of mass destruction. Change came only in response to the invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Fearing a similar fate, Gaddafi renounced and later dismantled his nuclear program. Unfortunately for him, Libya quickly spiralled into civil war and he was removed from power and killed.

Sanctions and negotiations over decades with North Korea, including multiple agreements with Pyongyang, ended in total failure. The Kim family regime used the ongoing negotiations to buy time while progressing with its nuclear and ballistic missile projects. Today this dangerously unpredictable and isolated country is thought to possess several dozen atomic bombs and the means to deliver them as far as the US west coast.

Iran’s religiously inspired drive

We now know that in April 1984, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, gave the order to initiate the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons project. The reason was again external threats, especially the then ongoing war with Iraq, which saw many international players providing assistance of various sorts to Baghdad. Then Iranian Prime Minister and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei explained at the time that the bomb was needed “to secure the very essence of the Islamic Revolution from the schemes of its enemies, especially the United States and Israel.”

Khamenei also added that Iran requires nuclear weapons to “prepare it for the emergence of the Imam Mahdi [Islam’s Messiah]”. His words reveal the uniqueness of Teheran’s drive to the bomb – religious beliefs. The regime believes that the bomb will facilitate the export of the revolution and eventually lead to a Shi’ite revival as Islam’s leading force, as believed to be promised by God.

Diplomacy in the form of sanctions, negotiations and agreements was the main strategy applied by the international community to tackle the Iranian challenge, including especially its nuclear aspect. The 2015 nuclear deal (the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or JCPOA) was the crown jewel in a long series of agreements with Iran, in which Teheran agreed to decelerate parts of its open nuclear program and facilitate tougher inspection of it in exchange for the easing of sanctions.

Why did the combined diplomatic approach fail to curb Iran, now potentially only a few months from becoming a nuclear threshold state?

The fundamentalist Iranian elite view engagement by the West as a sign of weakness, discouraging Teheran from making meaningful concessions to infidel countries that they are convinced are implacable enemies. The ayatollahs choose instead to employ both defiance and deceit. They breached all nuclear agreements, pushing forward at varying pace towards their goal, while misleading and undermining UN monitoring of their activities.

Responding to sanctions, Teheran’s strategy is attempting to construct a “resistance economy” to maintain self-sufficiency without foreign trade or aid. This strategy of course does not apply to the regime’s corrupt elite, which enjoys riches at the expense of the Iranian people, who suffer increasing distress from the impact of sanctions.

Threats to the regime remain high

The Libyan and South African cases teach us that governments opt to relinquish their nuclear option only when one of two preconditions exist: either the leadership believes the threat to its existence is significantly diminished; or international pressure looks likely to lead to imminent regime change.

In 2021, the level of external threat to the Iranian regime remains high – or at least so it must appear from Teheran. The US, along with Iran’s arch-enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia, lead a camp of Middle Eastern allies working together against Iran and its proxies. Teheran is fuelling these tensions, with attacks and proliferation of terror and radical ideologies directly or via proxies (Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and various Shi’ite militias for example). Furthermore, internal discontent in Iran has been increasing as the people suffer under oppression, an ailing economy, water and food shortages, corruption and mismanagement.

The rigged election of Ebrahim Raisi, executioner of his own people, as president has completed the transformation of Iran’s regime into an extremist government controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. With even the pretence of competitive democracy now largely dispensed with, these elements must maintain a focus on external threats as the only justification for their cruel grip on power. Their lesson from the toppling of Saddam and Gaddafi after they gave up their nuclear weapons efforts is that the Iranian regime must avoid such a move lest it face a similar fate.

Israel, with the help of the US (and others?) has sought an alternative to diplomacy by embarking on an unprecedented sabotage campaign to derail Iran’s nuclear program. Mysterious explosionscyber-attacks, killing of scientists and leading figuresin the project were employed to hopefully slow down Iran’s progress toward bombmaking. These efforts appear to have at least helped ensure that even after four decades, the Iranians have yet to build a functioning nuclear warhead. This campaign, however, is perceived in Teheran as yet another strategic threat.

Israel is the only country to have successfully defused emerging nuclear threats by deploying military force – destroying Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981, and Syria’s secret Al Kibar reactor in September 2007. But the military option in Iran’s case is much more complex, making the efficacy of any potential attack questionable. The Iranian weapons project is very advanced, facilities are spread across the country, often dug in deep underground, and well protected. Moreover, the relevant nuclear knowledge accumulated by Iran’s scientists cannot be erased militarily. Teheran’s response to any such operation is expected to be fierce, causing major damage to Israel and possibly other Middle Eastern countries.

A US-led attack on the nuclear program might have greater prospects of success, but this looks extremely unlikely any time soon.

The dire conclusion must be that without regime change, or at least the serious threat of regime change, in Teheran – both also appearing unlikely – the world can soon expect to witness the emergence of Iran as the newest addition to the club of nuclear powers (or at least a threshold nuclear state).

This conclusion requires a shift in the discourse among international policy makers. Unless they are prepared to discuss coercive measures so fierce that Iran’s ruling clerics are forced to concede that they must make major nuclear concessions to preserve the regime’s existence, the world will have to stop thinking about “how to stop Iran from going nuclear” and focus instead on “how to contain and deal with nuclear Iran.”

Dr. Ran Porat is an AIJAC research associate. He is also a research associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University, a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya and a research associate at the Future Directions International Research Institute, Western Australia.

Iraqi Parties Resort to Maximum Pressure to Counter Antichrist’s Stance on Elections

Iraqis Parties Resort to Maximum Pressure to Counter Sadr’s Stance on Elections

Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

Tuesday, 24 August, 2021 – 05:45 

Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (Reuters file photo)

Shiite parties in Iraq are adopting a policy of maximum pressure on influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to persuade him to take part in the upcoming elections in October without any prior conditions.

The pressure reached a peak last week when rival Shiite parties delivered various indirect messages that they were not opposed to holding the elections and forming a new government without Sadr.

Such messages are an effort to outmaneuver Sadr through intimidation, claiming that he will lose his influence in government and parliament if he refuses to take part in the polls.

A senior political aide revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Sadr recently received two messages through a “neutral mediation” that called on him to “follow through with his boycott to the end. If he chooses to take part in the elections, then he should do so without preconditions.”

Sadr’s close associates say he has many scenarios to mull over. His Shiite rivals have warned that his withdrawal from the race will lead to security repercussions, while the heads of Shiite parties have dismissed these fears.

Amid this speculation, the leaders and representatives of six Shiite parties held at least four meetings in a week to discuss the calls to postpone the elections.

Despite the apparent hesitation of the Nasr movement, headed by former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, the leaders agreed that the elections must be held on time.

Sources revealed that Abadi was seeking dialogue with Sadr to persuade him to go back on his boycott.

As it stands, veteran Shiite leaders, such as former PM Nouri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Ameri, have complained of the claims that the elections can only be held securely and smoothly with Sadr’s participation. They have also complained of claims that their participation is not enough to push forward the political process and that Sadr was needed to do so.

Such sentiments have prompted these parties to prove themselves and forge ahead with elections that would eliminate Sadr from the political scene.

Electoral campaign managers have grown fiercer in taking advantage of the vacuum he is leaving behind in areas where he wields influence.

One such manager in a southern city said: “This is our golden opportunity. Why should we waste it?”

Such zeal does not eliminate the concerns that still hound Shiite party leaders who fear that Sadr’s absence would deal a blow to the Shiite political weight and who are also concerned over whether they would be able to withstand the cleric’s popular opposition on the street.

Sources close to Sadr have appeared very satisfied with the Shiite party meetings and their speculation over the cleric’s boycott, including their concern over the return of protests by the Sadrist supporters.

A political aide, who helped coordinate the Shiite party meetings, said the leaders had even approached the religious authority in Najaf city over the elections.

The response they received was clear: “We support holding the elections in October.”

This position stands in contrast with the stances of three Najaf clerics, all of whom are close to the office of the religious authority, Ali al-Sistani.

They claimed that no specific position has been taken over the political debate over the elections. The date of the polls is up to the people and an agreement reached by the concerned powers, they said.

Sistani had last year warned against postponing the elections. He had, however, also said that the necessary conditions should be available to hold them.

As Sadr’s rival keep speculating, he has deliberately chosen to remain silent to keep them guessing as to whether he will join the electoral race or pull out a new card from his sleeve to reshuffle the Shiite scene in Iraq.

The Taliban WILL destabilize Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons: Revelation 8

Ensure that Taliban do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons: US lawmakers to Biden

Ensure that Taliban do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons: US lawmakers to Biden

What over the horizon operations are you prepared to use to counter this threat The letter questioned that with the Taliban taking over Kabul, does the armed group now have de facto command and control over the Afghan security forces former personnel, equipment and infrastructure.If so, does this mean that the Taliban possess an air force through this de facto control


| Washington DC | Updated: 26-08-2021 05:53 IST | Created: 26-08-2021 05:53 IST


A group of US lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to ensure that the Taliban, which is now the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons.

The lawmakers demanded that Bidenshould answer critical questions on what happened in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward.

“Are you prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militarise the Afghanistanborder? What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban do not destabilise its nuclear neighbour Pakistan?” the group of 68 lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives asked in a letter addressed to Biden on Wednesday.

“Do you have a plan to ensure that Afghanistan, under Taliban occupation, will never acquire a nuclear weapon?” they asked.

The lawmakers said over the past weeks, the world watched with utter shock as the Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, ”the result of unforced errors made by withdrawing completely the small remaining footprint of our main military force from Afghanistan, and by unnecessarily delaying the evacuation of US personnel and its Afghanpartners”.

The situation in Afghanistan has rapidly ”metastasized” into Taliban rule with reinstated oppression of women and girls, the repression of civil society, the displacement of countless Afghansfrom their homes who the Taliban then use force to prevent from fleeing Afghanistan, and a power vacuum that China seeks to fill by increasing its ties to the Taliban, they said.

Observing that the consequences of US withdrawal from Afghanistan are not isolated to that country, or even to the Middle East region, the lawmakers said the action carried geopolitical and strategic consequences that have already begun to unfold and will reverberate for decades.

“Dealing with these consequences means that we must take action now to chart the course for American strategy, while we manage the immediate repercussions of this self-inflicted crisis in Afghanistan. To this end, we write to ask you to outline what your plan is to move America forward,” they wrote.

Noting that the intelligence community has warned that Al Qaida and ISIS-K will be given carte blanche by the Taliban to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to train and equip for future terrorist attacks against the US, they asked: “What is your plan to ensure that Al Qaida does not resurge and regain a foothold in Afghanistan? What ‘over the horizon’ operations are you prepared to use to counter this threat?” The letter questioned that with the Taliban taking over Kabul, does the armed group now have de facto command and control over the Afghan security forces’ former personnel, equipment and infrastructure.

”If so, does this mean that the Talibanpossess an air force through this de facto control? What is your plan to disable any air forces that operate under orders from the Taliban?” it asked.

The lawmakers asked Biden about his plan to ensure that more US and Afghanmilitary equipment do not end up in the hands of the Taliban.

“What is your plan to reclaim US military equipment that has already fallen into the hands of the Taliban?” they asked.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Gaza Pales­tinians resume demon­stra­tions outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Gaza Pales­tinians resume demon­stra­tions on Israeli border

By Associated Press AP PUBLISHED 2:30 PM ET Aug. 25, 2021 PUBLISHED August 25, 2021 @2:30 PM

A sound grenade is fired by Israeli forces during a protest against the creation of a new road for Israeli settlers, near the Palestinian village of Beita, north of the West Bank city of Nablus, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hundreds of Palestinians on Wednesday demonstrated near the Israeli border in the southern Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to ease a crippling blockade days after a similar gathering ended in deadly clashes with the Israeli army.

The demonstration wrapped up without a repeat of Saturday’s intense clashes after Hamas kept the crowds from approaching the separation wall. 

Egypt, which has been trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the enemy sides, had appealed to the Islamic militant group to calm things down. Shortly after the demonstration ended, Hamas officials announced that the territory’s key border crossing with Egypt was partially reopening on Thursday.

The Israeli military, which had beefed up its forces ahead of the demonstration, said it used tear gas and limited live fire to disperse the crowd. Palestinian medics reported at least 14 people were wounded, including five people who suffered gunshots. None of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.

Soheil al-Hendi, a Hamas official, said the group had made a “great effort” to avoid bloodshed.

“The enemy must understand this message that we do not want to repeat what happened last Saturday when blood was spilled,” he said. 

Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV showed crowds of people approaching the fence, then running away when an Israeli military vehicle arrived. Tear gas could be seen floating in the wind. The military said it had used .22 caliber gunfire, a type of weapon that is meant to be less lethal than more powerful firearms but can still be deadly.

During Saturday’s demonstration, hundreds of participants stormed the fence, some of them throwing explosives, resulting in violent clashes. 

An Israeli soldier was critically wounded when a Palestinian militant shot him in the head through a hole in the wall at point-blank range, while over 40 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire. One of the wounded, Osama Dueji, died of his wounds Wednesday. Hamas identified him as a member of its armed wing.

Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, an Israeli military spokesman, said that demonstrators on Saturday fired weapons and lobbed explosives at soldiers and tried to tear down the fence.

“They are presenting riots as peaceful,” he said. “In reality, these riots are extremely violent.” He declined to say how many troops had been mobilized on Wednesday but said the number was much larger than on Saturday and included riot-control forces.

Hamas has organized the protests in an attempt to put pressure on Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have maintained the blockade since Hamas, a militant group that opposes Israel’s existence, took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election. The blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy and fueled an unemployment rate hovering around 50%. Israel says the blockade, which tightly restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous skirmishes since 2007, most recently an 11-day battle in May that killed 260 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.

Hamas accuses Israel of violating the cease-fire that ended the fighting by tightening the blockade. In particular, it has restricted the entry of materials needed for reconstruction. Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two soldiers killed in a 2014 war, as well as the return of two Israeli civilians believed to be in Hamas captivity.

Last week, Israel reached an agreement with Qatar to allow the Gulf country to resume aid payments to thousands of impoverished Gaza families. 

Under the new system, the payments will be delivered by the United Nations directly to families that have been vetted by Israel. In the past, the aid was delivered as cash straight to Hamas.

The payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks, providing some relief in Gaza.

But tensions remain high. In addition to the demonstrations, Hamas has allowed its supporters to launch incendiary balloons across the border, setting off a number of wildfires in southern Israel. Israel has responded with a series of airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Egypt, which serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has been working to broker a longer-term truce between the bitter enemies. 

This week, Egypt closed its border crossing with Gaza, the main exit point for the territory’s people to travel abroad, in a show of frustration with Hamas. 

Hamas’ Interior Ministry announced that it had been told by Egypt that the Rafah crossing would reopen on Thursday to allow Gazans to return. Outgoing traffic will still not be allowed, it said. Egyptian officials did not immediately confirm the news.

But earlier, an Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, confirmed his government had held extensive communications with all sides. 

He said Egypt had asked Hamas to calm things down and for Israel to begin easing the blockade and accelerating the Qatari payments. 

___

Associated Press writer Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Palestinian shot by Israeli army outside the Temple Walls dies: Revelation 11

Palestinian medics in Gaza carry a wounded man during confrontations near the border fence with Israel on Saturday [Adel Hana/AP Photo]

Palestinian shot by Israeli army in Gaza Strip dies

Osama Khaled Deaih, 32, died after being shot by Israeli forces during demonstrations on Saturday, Gaza health ministry says.

A Palestinian man has died of injuries sustained during weekend confrontations with Israeli forces on the fence that separates Gaza from Israel, the besieged strip’s health ministry says ahead of fresh protests called for Wednesday.

Following Saturday’s unrest, in which dozens of Palestinians were wounded with Israeli live fire, 32-year-old Palestinian Osama Khaled Deaih died after being shot by Israeli forces, the ministry said.

The confrontations also left an Israeli soldier in a critical condition.

Protests were held along the border fence to pressure Israel to remove its crippling blockade and to allow for the reconstruction of Gaza following the recent 11-day Israeli offensive on the coastal enclave.

The Israeli army said it responded with live fire and other measures to Palestinian “rioters” who were hurling explosives over the border fence and attempting to scale it.

Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, said that among the wounded was a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head and left in a critical condition.

In a statement carried by Maan news agency on Wednesday, Hamas spokesman Abdul Latif al-Qanou said the group “mourns the martyr Deaih” and confirms the “continuation of the Palestinian people’s resistance to the occupation”.

Palestinian factions in the Israeli-blockaded enclave have called a new protest for 5pm (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday on the border near the south Gaza city of Khan Younis.

The Israeli army on Saturday said it was reinforcing its Gaza division as it hit multiple Hamas targets with air strikes.

Israel struck Gaza again overnight on Monday and Tuesday in response to incendiary balloon launches that sparked multiple fires in Israel’s southern Eshkol region.

There were no reported casualties from the latest Israeli strikes.

The protests come three months after an informal truce ended an 11-day relentless Israeli offensive that killed 265 people in Gaza. In Israel, 13 people died.

In 2018, Palestinians in Gaza began a protest movement demanding an end to Israel’s blockade and the right for Palestinians to return to lands they were forcibly and violently expelled from when Israel was founded in 1948.

The popular weekly demonstrations, known as the Great March of Return, sputtered as Israel killed some 350 Palestinians in Gaza over more than a year with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas bombs.