Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake: Revelation 6

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

China Nukes Up the Pakistani Nuclear Horn

s-400 Missile
File Image: S-400 Missile

China Could Equip Pakistan With Hypersonic DF-17 Missiles To Neutralize India’s ‘Game-Changing’ S-400 Defense System – Experts

January 27, 2022

China has been arming the Pakistani bid to contain India. Beijing has aided Islamabad with fighter aircraft, submarines, naval warships, air defense systems and other military equipment.

Last week, a leading military analyst claimed that China could now equip Pakistan with hypersonic weapons which could evade India’s latest acquisition – the S-400 air defense system.

Hypersonic weapons, which travel at Mach 5 speeds, or five times the speed of sound, are difficult to track and engage for air defense systems like the Russian-made S-400 that both China and India possess.

Richard D. Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, testified before the US Congress about China’s military advances and has written extensively about the People’s Liberation Army.

“To the extent that China has supported North Korea’s new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missile warhead, it has or will similarly assist a Pakistani HGV, or just sell the DF-17,” he told Defense News.

Given the air defense system’s superior sensors and the array of missiles, the Indian Media has referred to the S-400 as a “game-changer.” The S-400 employs four different types of surface-to-air missiles having a range from 40 to 400 kilometers.

The missiles are capable of shooting down a variety of targets, including fighter planes, cruise missiles, bombs, and some types of ballistic missiles which means it renders Pakistan’s nuclear offense incapable.

Because of the S-400’s adaptability, Pakistan has viewed India’s acquisition as a danger, as the system can shoot down planes even in Pakistani airspace. The S-400’s possible offensive capability, which would limit an adversary’s use of its own airspace, is a significant feature. Due to Pakistan’s topography and the country’s long border with India, the defense system would cover a large part of the country.

It’s pertinent to note that the Indian S-400 Triumf system is being stationed in Punjabstate bordering Pakistan and the deployment is set to be complete by February.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=e30%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1472973829571944448&lang=en&origin=safari-reader%3A%2F%2Feurasiantimes.com%2Fchina-to-equip-pakistan-with-hypersonic-df-17-missiles-india%2F%3Famp&theme=light&widgetsVersion=75b3351%3A1642573356397&width=550px

Some Pakistani analysts have warned that India’s overconfidence in its newly purchased S-400 air defense system could give the country a false sense of invulnerability, increasing the risk of a military mistake involving archrival Pakistan.

These assertions come two years after the Balakot airstrike that led to Pakistani fighter jets entering the Indian air space and the resultant aerial skirmish between the two sides.

Even though the two militaries signed a ceasefire last year, tension along the LoC, the de facto border in the Kashmir region, is palpable as the Indian Army accuses its Pakistani counterpart of sponsoring cross-border terrorism.

Hypersonic Missiles

A hypersonic weapon carries a glide vehicle that is installed atop a ballistic missile. It is launched into the upper atmosphere and glides the weapon to its target. The Chinese DF-17 has a range of around 2,500 kilometers and travels at speeds of between five and ten times the speed of sound, according to US intelligence estimates. The DF-17 is believed to have been commissioned by the Chinese military.

Pakistani analysts have already advocated for the development of hypersonic weapons to counter the S-400’s deployment.

Like Fisher said in his assessment, one of the options available for Beijing is to either sell the DF-17 to Pakistan directly or transfer technology and assist it in developing a similar system. Further, Fisher believes that China aided North Korea’s hypersonic program that manifested in two unprecedented tests recently.Artist rendering of China’s hypersonic missile

“It is very likely that to the degree that China has aided North Korea’s new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missile warhead, it has or will similarly assist a Pakistani HGV, or simply sell the DF-17,” he said, referring to a medium-range missile system equipped with an HGV. “Or Beijing now has the option of allowing North Korea to sell its HGV to Pakistan.”

China has tested its hypersonic missiles on more than one occasion. Last year, a Chinese hypersonic missile went around the world. Even though it missed its target by a few kilometers, this was the first time ever that a hypersonic missile covered the entire length of the globe.

Additionally, in a shocking revelation, it was informed that the glide vehicle fired a submunition in the South China Sea in the test.

China’s hypersonic capabilities have only grown with the country’s expert and scientific community making frequent announcements related to the significant strides that the program was taking. In that sense, it could be assumed that China does remain in the position to arm its closest ally with hypersonic missiles to override the capabilities of S-400.

Pakistan’s Hypersonic Weapons: A Far Cry

Pakistan acquiring hypersonic missiles only remains only an idea as of now, with no expectation of any such deal taking place between China and Pakistan in the near future. There are several reasons attached to it. The EurAsian Times spoke to a few experts who put the conjectures in perspective.

Military watcher Amit Mukherjee voiced skepticism about the theory. He said, “Pakistan is an ideal stooge of China to keep India off balance. India should help Taiwan the same way China helps Pakistan. 

But that is not the issue here. Suitable air defense equipment against hypersonic weapons is still in its infancy. With the deployment of the S-400s, it will be more difficult for the PAF aircraft and cruise missiles to penetrate into Indian airspace.

Ballistic missiles could lead to miscalculations of an incoming nuclear strike escalating conventional war to the next level. Swarm drones may not have the range to penetrate deep into enemy airspace and dense anti-aircraft guns / anti-drone systems could effectively deal with them. 

Hypersonic weapons could give Pakistan a surefire method of penetrating deep into Indian airspace to achieve the desired objectives without escalating into a nuclear war.

Philippines-based defense analyst Miguel Miranda offered a nuanced view. He said, “I have no doubts military-to-military consultations are always going on between China and Pakistan. All branches of the Pakistan military have benefited from Chinese assistance. The assumption that there are ongoing efforts related to hypersonic missiles isn’t far-fetched.

“We still don’t have any concrete evidence that a hypersonic missile — a large diameter precision munition capable of accelerating beyond Mach 5 during its flight — is being assembled in Pakistan right now although it’s likely the ‘homework’ or the research for developing one is underway.

Thanks to the sudden appearance of hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles in China and North Korea we have reason to assume these are inexpensive to assemble if the technology and production facilities are in place.China’s DF-17 hypersonic missiles. (Image: China Military Online)

“It’s true that China can sell many types of long-range precision ordnance. It looks like its state-owned companies have free reign to export ballistic missiles and cruise missiles and everything in between. 

Yet since the 1990s Pakistan’s military-industrial sector has focused on full indigenization when it comes to strategic weapon systems. Hence, the first hypersonic missile to emerge in Pakistan is likely be 100% made in Pakistan.”

Nitin J Ticku, a Defense Analyst and the Managing Editor at the EurAsian Times says — There are a few reasons why I don’t think Pakistan is going to get hypersonic missiles any time soon. First, there’s still time before China’s own hypersonic missile could be fully operational. They conducted a test last year that missed the target by a few kilometers. So, they would want to achieve more enhanced levels of precision before export could even be contemplated. 

Secondly, hypersonic weapons are a highly classified technology that China may not be willing to share, like its J-20 stealth fighter aircraft. China bets big on Pakistan but there is still a trust deficit. There is always a risk of espionage and China wouldn’t be willing to risk it at this point when the US and UK do not have a hypersonic missile and China is treading very carefully.

While Pakistan acquiring hypersonic missiles from China sounds far-fetched, the country does have many long, mid, and short-range missiles in its arsenal. The Islamic nation possesses the Chinese version of the S-400 air defense system, called the HQ-9B, which, however, has a much lesser range of 240 kilometers.HQ-9 – Wikipedia

Given that India faces a two-front war threat from Pakistan and China, Beijing’s defense collaboration with its “iron brother” will continue, or perhaps increase manifold notwithstanding the speculation about hypersonic weapons.

China Nukes UP the Pakistani Horn

China uses Pakistan as a proxy to lock India in an confrontation on its western borders.

China supplies mounted howitzers to Pak to maintain arms parity with India

Over the past decades, Pakistan has been able to punch far beyond its weight category with China doing the heavy lifting against India, be it in arms supply or in multilateral arms control regimes.

Published on Jan 27, 2022 11:05 AM ISTByShishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

In a move that ensures that Pakistan continues to remain locked up in confrontation with India, Islamabad has received first batch of Chinese manufactured vehicle mounted howitzers to counter the Indian K-9 Vajra howitzers. Beijing is also supplying NORINCO AR-1 300 mm multi barrel rocket launchers to Rawalpindi so that the Pakistan Army has a reply to Indian rocket launchers. The total contract worth is around USD 512 million.

The supply of conventional weapon systems, fighter aircraft, destroyers and even the inclination to give DF-17 hypersonic missile to counter India’s latest acquisition, the S-400 air defence system, are all part of Beijing long strategy to keep Rawalpindi GHQ in a state of permanent confrontation with India. This strategy has paid dividends to Beijing regime in the past as forces India to remain alert on its western border with a power that boxes much above its weight category due to heavy lift from China, be it in international fora or in military or nuclear parity. The role played by Beijing in developing Pakistan into a nuclear state along with the covert supply of delivery systems since 1990s is all well documented.RELATED STORIES

According to reports, Pakistan in 2019 signed a contract with Chinese arms major NORINCO to supply 236 SH-15 155 mm vehicle mounted howitzers apart from AR-1 heavy rocket launchers. In addition to artillery, the contract also includes supply and technology transfer for various ammunition including extended range artillery shells and guided artillery shells with the range of 53 kilometers. Clearly, this supply is to boost the firepower of Pakistan army all along the western border, specially to heat up the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in case the existing ceasefire breaks down or to send a message on Kashmir.https://e17e17152a4d07ea44969461a030cb0e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0

The reported supply of DF-17 mobile, solid fueled medium range ballistic missile by China to Pakistan is to pump up Rawalpindi’s ballistic missile system as the hypersonic missile is difficult to track by most existing radars and equally difficult to engage by existing surface to air missile systems including S-400 system. Mounted on a hypersonic glide vehicle, the DF-17 is said to have a combination of maneuverability and high speed that poses significant challenges to conventional missile defence. China has tested the DF-17 missile at least nine times since 2014 and is said to have 1950 km range with a speed of at least five times that of sound or Mach 5.

While India also tested its scramjet powered Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Cruise Vehicle (HSTDV) on September 7, 2020 for launch of hypersonic missiles, the Chinese supply will clearly force Defence Research and Development Organization to speed up the indigenous project.https://e17e17152a4d07ea44969461a030cb0e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0

Keeping Pakistan under its wing for strategic purposes and reach to Arabian Sea, China has not only supplied arms to Rawalpindi but has played a spoiler to India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group and has gone to the extent of trying innocent Indians working in Afghanistan listed as global terrorists before the 1267 committee. It routinely sides with Pakistan in the UN over Kashmir and vetoes any attempt to list known pan-Islamic jihadi groups or their leaders as terrorists by the UNSC.

Wickedness before the Bowls of Wrath: Revelation 16

Eve Ottenberg | Published: 00:00, Jan

Abyss of human wickedness

— Counter Punch/Brian Stansberry

AS THE west worked itself into a lather in the last month over Russia moving its troops within its own borders, one Republican senator, Roger Wicker of Mississippi bellowed on December 8 that the United States should attack Russia with nuclear weapons. This horrifying threat to end human life on the planet comes from someone of no little puissance, as others quickly noted. Wicker sits on the armed services committee. So he communes regularly with Pentagon bigwigs, many of whom are said to have little regard for presidential professions of concern for posterity and promises never to explode the nuclear devices that would eliminate that posterity once and for all. One must assume when someone of Wicker’s exalted position speaks, he speaks not only for himself.

Fortunately, the five most impressively nuclear-armed nations moved quickly to throw cold water on those who advocate an atomic apocalypse, and that included drenching senator Wicker. China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint statement on January 3 that avoiding nuclear war is a paramount goal. ‘We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,’ agreed the five countries. ‘We each intend to maintain and further strengthen our national measures to prevent unauthorised or unintended use of nuclear weapons.’ The statement also calls for progress on disarmament. It could not be more apposite.

That’s because the western Russophobic propaganda machine — the biggest and most deafening of its kind in world history, cranked up to full volume at all corporate news outlets, drowning the world in cuckoo-bird ravings about treacherous Slavs — now would have us believe that the Russians are planning false flag attacks in Ukraine. False flags are pretty much a US military/media specialty, in fact, Washington owns the patent on them, but most US Americans, blissfully ignorant of this fact, are thus easy marks for such hysteria. So now, this rubbish, regurgitated by credulous newspaper scribes and repeated by government officials, screams at us daily from the headlines. There is practically nothing, zilch, to counter it. The most preposterous prevarications abound, for example, Ukraine’s president, in November, breathlessly announcing that Moscow intended to overthrow him ‘next week’. Among these fabrications lurk tales about Washington’s and NATO’s supposedly benign and even altruistic motives.

Better the world live without NATO than die for its expansion. Because that is what NATO asks us to do. When the US sends E-8 electronic warfare aircraft over Russia’s borders, as it did in December, they’re not there just to say hello. When NATO member Great Britain projects its HMS Defender two miles from the Crimean coast, causing warning shots from Russian coast guard patrol ships, as happened last June 23, this is no innocent, defensive manoeuvre. And when NATO’s supreme commander muses publicly about reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank on Romania and Bulgaria, only an idiot would conclude he’s not preparing for war.

Likewise, only a nitwit would swallow secretary of state Antony Blinken’s bigoted remark January 7 that ‘once the Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.’ This from a man whose nation’s military has lodged itself in Germany and Japan for 77 years and counting, occupied Afghanistan for 20 years and is still in Iraq after 19. Blinken has some nerve. But then, he can utter such mendacities in full confidence that he will never, never be corrected in the American press.

It’s no wonder Russia demands written legal guarantees against NATO expansion and western nukes. It’s also no surprise that the US, caught in a lie, now claims that back in the early 1990s it never promised not to expand ‘one inch’ east of Germany, as several officials in president George HW Bush’s administration told Gorbachev and others, in exchange for German reunification.

Meanwhile Biden threatens Russia with ferocious sanctions for moving troops onto its border with Ukraine. Now sanctions are the modern equivalent of the medieval siege, and the US applies them promiscuously. There is no evidence that they succeed at anything other than causing ordinary people to miss meals and diabetics to skip insulin injections. Oh, and sanctions also instil hatred for the US which thus torments the population. Sanctions lead the targeted rulers to consolidate their power. They are counter-productive. Far worse, as happens right now in the 20 countries sanctioned by the US, they kill loads of innocent people, especially vulnerable ones, like children in Afghanistan, for instance. But sanctions make whoever’s leading the latest Washington circus feel like big shots, so their toxic application will probably continue.

The only light on this dismal horizon was the summit between Russia, the United States and NATO that ran from January 10 to January 13. That light flickered out quickly, when it became clear that US officials are incapable of comprehending speech outside the parameters of their exceptionalist ideology. All they offered was hooey about NATO never closing doors. This nonsense is ostentatiously contradicted by the fact that neither Switzerland nor Austria belongs to NATO and are, in fact, constitutionally neutral. Moscow wants some such carve-out for former Soviet territories on its borders. But the Biden team just didn’t get it. When the Russians said including Ukraine in NATO would cause a ‘military technical’ response, that should have elicited a serious counter-offer. It did not.

How do we know the summit teeters on the rim of failure? Because the January 19 Svobodnaya Pressa announced that Moscow has begun deploying the high-precision long-range operational and tactical missile system 9K720 Iskander-M in Crimea. The flight range of these missiles is up to 3,500 kilometres. They can hit any European capital and ‘even American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea, Arleigh Burke destroyers, Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers.’ Iskanders can be launched simultaneously in a 200-missile barrage. The article is headlined, ‘Moscow’s Patience Snapped: Crimea Deploys Iskanders.’ Blinken jets to Geneva this weekend. Hopefully this news about Russian weaponry will elicit all his diplomatic skills in his confab with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The situation is dire.

It is telling that the January summit came at the Kremlin’s request. Dismaying is the only word for Washington and NATO’s apparent complaisance about the drift towards war between Russia and NATO, to say nothing of those Russian nuclear submarines that just completed a rotation off the eastern seaboard of the US a week and a half ago. NATO’s threat to absorb Finland and Sweden only proves the point that this military-industrial money pit is bottomless and its expansionist horizon is the planet itself.

Ukraine is a tinder box. If Moscow eventually militarily supports the Russian-speaking, ethnic Russian majority in eastern Ukraine, the Donbass, a population at loggerheads with ethnic Ukrainians of the west, Washington will have only itself to blame. Those culturally Russian Ukrainians have long wanted to join Russia. Anytime since 2014, Moscow could have allowed this. It did not, because clearly the Kremlin is not eager to partition Ukraine. Nor is Moscow eager for a showdown between nuclear powers. It called the summit, specifically to prevent that.

Speaking of which, Russia’s ally, China, races ahead, beefing up its nuclear arsenal. Shenanigans like the attempted coup in Kazakhstan and the west’s relentless provocations in Ukraine — dating back to 2014, when Washington’s regime-change operation toppled the legally elected pro-Kremlin president — coupled with threats and insults aimed at China, first from the Trump team and now from the Biden entourage, doubtless convinced Chinese leaders that nuclear modernisation is at the top of their to-do list. The US military/foreign policy goal of encircling China with bases and warships no doubt speeds the Chinese effort to produce more nukes.

Indeed, the US department of defence’s November annual report claimed that China would likely have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. ‘Three times more than at present,’ as Michael Klare wrote on December 3 in CounterPunch, ‘and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States.’ In five years, that same report predicts, China ‘would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare.’ That means the People’s Liberation Army would achieve ‘superior intelligence, communications and battlefield coordination.’

This would enable China ‘to effectively resist any US military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province.’ Klare’s translation of this news is: ‘As the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.’

That, unfortunately, could be a conservative estimate. With genocidal senator Wicker barking for nuclear Armageddon right now and an equally bloodthirsty former Obama official, Evelyn Farkas, hollering for war, both apparently eager for a nuclear ‘shock and awe’, it’s past time for Washington to wake up to reality, namely that Russia and China have genuine, legitimate security concerns on their borders. Attempting to muddy the waters with hogwash about spurious ‘spheres of influence,’ as Blinkin did, won’t work. These are issues of border security. They have nothing to do with spheres of influence, and raising the bogus spectre of such spheres is a cynical distraction from Washington’s and NATO’s aggression on the borders of Russia and China.

If the US is concerned with anything other than being seen as the biggest bully on the block, then it will snap the CIA onto a short leash, stop the dirty regime-change operations, shut up about everybody and their grandmother’s sacred right to join NATO, accede to some demands vis-a-vis Ukraine and Taiwan and finally, and very importantly, get serious about arms control treaties. Trump arrogantly and wantonly busted up a couple of those. If Biden wants anything other than a radioactive legacy, he’ll fix that — for starters.

More than 50 million people affected by conflicts outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces Humvee patrols in Hassakeh, northeast Syria, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.Clashes between U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and militants continued for a fourth day Sunday near the prison in northeastern Syria that houses thousands of members of IS, the Kurdish force said. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

UN: More than 50 million people affected by urban conflicts

A backhoe breaks and remove parts of the Al-Jawhara building, as a worker recycles metal iron rods from the rubble of the building, which was damaged by Israeli airstrikes during Israel's war with Gaza's Hamas rulers last May, in the central of al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The Gaza Strip has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four bruising wars with Israel in just over a decade, it has lots of rubble. Local businesses are now finding ways to cash in on the chunks of smashed concrete, bricks and debris left behind by years of conflict. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A backhoe breaks and remove parts of the Al-Jawhara building, as a worker recycles metal iron rods from the rubble of the building, which was damaged by Israeli airstrikes during Israel’s war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers last May, in the central of al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The Gaza Strip has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four bruising wars with Israel in just over a decade, it has lots of rubble. Local businesses are now finding ways to cash in on the chunks of smashed concrete, bricks and debris left behind by years of conflict. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)ASSOCIATED PRESSMoreEDITH M. LEDERERTue, January 25, 2022, 4:18 PM·4 min read

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 50 million people are affected by conflict in urban areas from Afghanistan to Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond where they face a much higher risk of being killed or injured, the United Nations chief said Tuesday.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in some cases civilians may be mistaken for combatants and be attacked. In others, he said, fighters don’t try to minimize harm and use explosive weapons in crowded areas that lead to devastating suffering for ordinary people who face life-long disabilities and grave psychological trauma.

As examples, he told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in urban settings during wars that during last year’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants dozens of schools and health care facilities were damaged and nearly 800,000 people were left without piped water.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

In Afghanistan, an explosive attack outside a high school in the capital, Kabul, last May killed 90 students, mainly girls, and injured an additional 240 people, he said.

Guterres said the risk of harm to civilians “rises when combatants move among them and put military facilities and equipment near civilian infrastructure.”

But he said conflict in urban areas “goes far beyond its immediate impact on civilians.”

The secretary-general said urban warfare also put civilians at risk of sieges and blockades that have led to starvation. It also forces millions of people from their homes “contributing to record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people,” and it creates millions of tons of debris that affect the environment and people’s health, he said.

“Four years after the destruction of 80% of housing in Mosul, Iraq, an estimated 300,000 people were still displaced,” he said.

“The frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable; it is a choice,” Guterres said.

He urged combatants to respect international humanitarian law that prohibits attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure and also bars indiscriminate attacks and using civilians as human shields. He also urged combatants not to use explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and to “gauge the impact of their operations and find ways to minimize harm.”Story continuesOur goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting

Israel Attacks the Iranian Nuclear Horn Again

Natanz
A damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, in Isfahan, July 2, 2020.Reuters

Attacks inside one of Iran’s most secure nuclear facilities are the latest blows in a shadowy battle with Israel

Stavros AtlamazoglouSun, January 23, 2022, 6:44 PM·5 min read

After the US unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily risen.

For leaders in Israel — one of the US’s closest partners and Iran’s biggest foes — those tensions have confirmed their misgivings about the deal and about Iran, and they’ve gone on the warpath.

Iran has worked on nuclear technology for decades. The US has long suspected Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as cover for developing weapons. That suspicion is also held by the Israelis, who have been ensnared in a potentially existential struggle with Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Iranian athletes at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz
Iranian athletes at a rally in support of Iran’s nuclear program at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, March 9, 2006.BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

A nuclear weapon, or the ability to produce one quickly, would offer Tehran some much-needed security against its real and perceived adversaries. But Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, and Israel fears a nuclear weapon would allow Tehran to back up its provocative talk.

While much of that talk may be for propaganda purposes, Iran has shown the lengths it will go and pain it will endure in order to attack US, Western, and Israeli targets directly or through proxies, giving some weight to its nuclear threats.

To counter that threat, Israeli military and intelligence services have conducted a shadowy covert-action campaign of espionage, sabotage, and assassinations against Iran’s nuclear facilities and the people running them.

Israel’s war against Iran

Syria Israel missiles Damascus
Syrian air-defense units respond to what state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus in January 2019.STR/AFP/Getty Images

Israel has also shown that it will go to great lengths to ensure its security, and Tel Aviv is willing to pursue other, more dramatic courses of action in response to threats from Iran.

“We have a duty to be brave and responsible for the fate of our children and grandchildren. We have used force against our enemies in the past, and we are convinced that in extreme situations, there is a need to act using military means,” Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster said in a recent interview.

Indeed, Israel has long followed a no-holds-barred strategy in which the threat justifies the means. Its shadowy campaign against the Iranian nuclear programs uses complementary diplomatic, military, and intelligence tactics.

While Israel’s military has been heavily involved in that campaign, Mossad, Israel’s main intelligence service, has landed many of the blows against Iran itself.

According to a recent report by The Jewish Chronicle, which didn’t name or describe its sources, Mossad successfully infiltrated the Iranian supply chain and used the opportunity to sell Tehran faulty materials that caused fires at the Natanz nuclear-enrichment facility in July 2020.

The report also said Israeli intelligence officers recruited Iranian nuclear scientists who conducted sabotage at Natanz in April 2021 before being smuggled out of the country. Mossad is said to have used an unmanned aerial vehicle to attack the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, a factory making centrifuges crucial for producing weapons-grade uranium.

Facilities are easier to replace than expert knowledge, and Mossad has also gone after the hard-to-acquire know-how necessary for a nuclear-weapons capability by killing Iranian scientists working on the nuclear program.

Scene of the attack that killed  Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
The scene of the attack that killed prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside of Tehran, November 27, 2020.WANA via Reuters

Attacks against Iranian scientists have become more brazen. The November 2020 assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, reportedly with a remote-controlled machine gun using advanced artificial-intelligence technology, on a highway in Iran is something straight out of a Hollywood movie.

Israel’s manhunting effort likely draws on experience going back to Israel’s creation in 1948. In the years that followed, Israelis hunted down numerous ex-Nazis, including Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann. Following the 1972 killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists, Mossad conducted a similar campaign.

But Tel Aviv understands that this is a stalling tactic that can only frustrate Tehran’s efforts and not permanently undo the work its done in pursuit of nuclear technology.

In addition to those clandestine actions, the Israeli Defense Forces has been preparing and presenting Israeli policymakers with military options to take out targets associated with Iran’s nuclear program. This is standard planning for any military, and the IDF has received nearly $3 billion in additional funds to do it.

Israel would also have to take into account second- and third-order effects of such strikes, such as how Iranian proxies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, would react. Those groups, based in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, respectively, would be more likely to try to attack Israel.

Israeli officials are lobbying other countries to take a stronger stance against Iran while refraining from directly discussing what actions they’ve taken.

“We hope the whole world will be mobilized for the mission. For that, we’ve allocated a significant sum to increase our readiness. What hit Natanz? I can’t say,” Schuster, the deputy defense minister, said last month.

As Iran remains committed to its nuclear program, Israel is sure to continue its shadowy campaign against Tehran.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

Iraqi Horn’s battle against ISIS grinds on

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria

Iraq’s battle against IS cells grinds on in the desert

AFP – TuesdayFollowReactComments|4

Bullet holes riddle the concrete watchtower of a remote Iraqi army outpost north of Baghdad, a sign of the Islamic State group’s night-time attack that killed 11 soldiers.

The small riverside base is ringed by sand berms, a shallow moat and coils of razor wire, and three soldiers in mismatched uniforms are busy strengthening it with cement and cinder blocks.

It has been almost three years since the extremist Sunni group lost its self-proclaimed “caliphate” stretching across much of Iraq and Syria after long and gruelling battles.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThis remote military base in Diyala province was attacked by Islamic State group jihadists last week, killing 11 soldiers

But IS fighters remain active in a low-level insurgency and have recently stepped up their hit-and-run attacks against anyone in uniform, or anyone else who dares to stand up to them.

“They hide in holes dug into the ground or in abandoned houses,” said a senior Iraqi army officer during a visit Monday to the dusty outpost in the eastern province of Diyala.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEA UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria

This is also where they hide their explosives and weapons,” he told AFP during the trip, asking not to be identified.

The unenviable task of Iraq’s security forces is to hunt IS cells in a vast territory that stretches from Baghdad to Kirkuk, nearly 250 kilometres (about 150 miles) to the north, straddling three provinces.

At this outpost, one of a string of bases along the banks of the Adhaim river, IS fighters struck in a bitterly cold night, last Friday at 2:30 am, killing the 11 soldiers.

The ambush came as, across the border in Syria, more than 100 IS fighters launched their biggest attack in years, on a prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh, attempting to free fellow fighters.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThe attack on the base was the jihadists’ deadliest operation in the country so far this year

The fierce battle there has raged on, with the death toll topping 160 on Tuesday, as US-backed Kurdish forces surrounded the prison, while IS fighters remained holed up inside with thousands of detainees.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEThe anti-IS battle has become more perilous since Iraq has lost the direct support of a US-led international anti-jihadist coalition, especially air support

– Bloody cat-and-mouse game –

In Iraq, troops and police have been sweeping the area along the Adhaim river since the attack last week, in the latest chapter of a bloody cat-and-mouse game with the jihadists.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYEIraq’s army is fighting IS militants who remain active in a low-level insurgency and have recently stepped up their hit-and-run attacks

“We have been in this area for four days,” said Captain Azhar al-Juburi of the Federal Police Rapid Response Force as he returned from a patrol.

“We haven’t had any direct confrontation, but we have arrested terrorists.”

The local soldiers were not allowed to speak with visiting press, but the senior army officer explained that the jihadists “took advantage of the bad weather and the early hour to attack”.

It was “the first time that IS has attacked us directly”, he said. “They did not have the means until now. They were limited to planting improvised explosive devices and sniper fire.”

Diyala’s provincial governor Muthanna al-Tamimi had another explanation, blaming “the negligence of the soldiers”.

“The base is fortified,” he said after the attack. “There is a thermal camera, night vision goggles and a concrete watchtower.”

– ‘IS reorganising troops’ –

Whatever the case, said Iraqi analyst Imad Allou, the attack does underscore that IS “is trying to reorganise its troops and activities in Iraq”.

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria.

The ongoing IS presence in Syria is largely in desert hideouts in the east of the country, where the Kurds maintain a semi-autonomous administration that borders Iraq.

In Iraq, IS is most active in the north but has also claimed bomb attacks on civilian targets elsewhere, including a blast last July on a market in Sadr city, a Shiite suburb of Baghdad, that killed dozens.

The anti-IS battle has become all the more perilous since Iraq has lost the direct support of a US-led international anti-jihadist coalition, especially air support.

Its 3,500 troops, including 2,500 Americans, put an end to their combat mission last year to limit themselves to advising and training their Iraqi counterparts.

Does this worry the Iraqi senior officer?

“We have our own air force, and we rely on it,” he said. “As for the rest, it is not me who decides.”

gde/fz