COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A series of mild earthquakes have shaken homes and residents in central South Carolina.
The U.S. Geological Survey says three quakes Monday in Kershaw County near Elgin registered magnitudes of 3.3, 2.5 and 2.1.
The first earth-shaker rattled window panes and disrupted wildlife but apparently did not cause injuries or major damage. As the earthquake rumbled, with a sound similar to a heavy construction vehicle, it shook homes, caused glass doors and windows to clatter in their frames and prompted dogs to bark.
People reported feeling tremors throughout the Columbia area and as far away as Lexington, about 40 miles southwest of the epicenter.
Learning the long menu of potential sparks for the next Israeli-Palestinian escalation – from Sheikh Jarrah to spiking food prices, Hamas to Homesh – is grim, but better to do it before the next warShare in FacebookShare in Twitter
The writing on the wall: Graffiti showing Hamas militants in Gaza City. Given recent history, Gaza is the obvious arena to look for the next war, after four previous rounds with Israel since late 2008Credit: AP Photo/Bernat ArmangueDahlia ScheindlinGet email notification for articles from Dahlia ScheindlinFollow
Feb. 9, 2022
Towards the end of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck issued a grave prediction: “If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans.”
By contrast, Israeli media analysts often declare confidently that neither Israel nor the Palestinians want escalation – usually just as the rockets and airstrikes are launching. These analyses feed Israel’s psychological repression of the reality that there is in fact an active, ongoing military conflict here. In turn, Israelis perceive each new escalation as arbitrary Palestinian provocation, proof of an endemic hatred of Israel.
The region could use a well-timed trigger warning. Learning the long menu of potential sparks is grim, but better to do it before the next war.
But given recent history, Gaza is the obvious arena to look for the next war, after four previous rounds since late 2008. With Hamas governing a high-density, youth-heavy territory of soaring unemployment under siege-like Israeli control since 2007, the conditions of life are untenable. Even Israel has sought to improve the economic situation recently, by increasing the number of permits to 10,000 laborers allowed to enter Israel. While work opportunities are welcome in themselves, that number won’t change the overall misery.
The tripwire was nearly crossed in January when a Palestinian security prisoner on hunger strike almost died, Islamic Jihad threatened retaliation, and two rockets slipped out “accidentally” from Gaza to the Israeli shore. An 11th-hour deal to release the prisoner defused the situation.
Still, Hamas may have other priorities than war at present, such as establishing a stronger political foothold in the West Bank.
The West Bank itself is also fertile ground for triggers of war. Two high-profile Israeli settlement outposts, Homesh and Evyatar, are now the rallying points for the most extreme settlers and a fresh source of friction with Palestinians nearby. Attacks beget attacks.
Violence by these settlers is rising and expanding to include left-wing Israeli Jewish activists too. Both Israelis and Palestinians in these West Bank attacks are increasingly taking up firearms rather than knives or stones.
But for flammable material, Jerusalem is the most dependable arena. Historically, the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is the axis mundi of conflict. The riots of 1929 are named for Hebron but started here, as well as the Al Aqsa (Second) Intifada.
In May last year, Hamas made it clear that Jerusalem and Gaza are politically contiguous, by responding to attempted evictions at that time with rockets. Maybe this January, Hamas had other strategic priorities. But if Mahmoud Salhiyeh had self-immolated, strategy wouldn’t have mattered.
And the potential triggers are not only on the Israeli-Palestinian front – violence can come from within each group. In May, Palestinian citizens of Israel showing solidarity with the Sheikh Jarrah residents sparked protests around Israel. Violence erupted between the protestors, Israeli police and ultra-nationalist Jewish groups; mixed cities including Lod, Acre, Jaffa and also Bat Yam, saw the worst violence by, and against, Jewish and Arab citizens in living memory.
Could it happen again? Lod, a working-class mixed Arab-Jewish city with a growing Jewish religious nationalist “Garin Torani” community, was one of the worst flashpoints in May. Fida Shehade, a councilwoman in Lod, told me that, “The circumstances haven’t changed…We [Arabs] are still invisible citizens and the discriminatory, unequal policy exists.”
She pointed to widespread poverty as an ongoing, exacerbating problem. “The city is quieter and trying to get back to normal,” she wrote to me. “But the daily headlines about the police and the right-wing preparing for the ‘next May’ [a euphemism for repeated violence] just increases the lack of trust and lack of dialogue between the residents.”
Surveys by aChord, a social psychology research center, studied Jews and Arabs in Israel’s mixed cities and found that among Arabs, distrust, hatred and fear towards Jews has been growing since May. Jewish trends on those measures were stable or declined slightly – but began from a much higher starting point.
Finally, internal Palestinian violence is more likely than ever. Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership is more decrepit than his health, and still the Palestinian Authority has no a clear succession plan. Elections are a far-fetched fantasy, leaving no civic outlet for massive public frustration. Instead, at the Palestinian Central Council meetings being held this week Abbas reportedly won approval to stack leadership positions with his own people.
One international observer said the Hebron violence “shows the absence of law and order, and the lack of influence of the PA in Hebron.” A diplomatic source worried about the possibility that PA funds and other donor sources could dry up – and nearly 30 percent of Palestinians working in the public sector won’t get paid. The tinder pile grows.
There are plenty of policy ideas available for avoiding the flare ups, but no substitute for a comprehensive political resolution to the conflict on the horizon. In the meantime, there’s nothing damned silly, irrational or endemic about the hostilities: they are a direct response to empirical circumstances. People created these conditions, and people need to fix them.
Dahlia Scheindlin is a political scientist and public opinion expert, and a policy fellow at The Century Foundation. Twitter: @dahliasc
This illustration depicts the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency’s (DARPA) Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle as it emerges from its rocket nose cone and prepares to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. DARPA has conducted two test flights of the vehicle; in the second, in 2011, the HTV reached a speed of Mach 20 before losing control. (Image courtesy of DARPA)
When John Hyten was on his way out as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he lamented that the US had lost its appetite for failure, and as a consequence would find itself trailing in high-risk tech — such as, specifically, hypersonics. In the op ed below, Tate Nurkin of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments echoes Hyten’s warnings and urges the US to embrace not recklessness, but certainly risk if its wants to catch up to geopolitical rivals.
This is welcome and timely guidance. Hypersonic weapons are a critical capability for deterring and defeating potential adversaries in the 21st century, and ones the US must develop with superspeed of its own.
Beyond the immediate need for critical investments in hypersonic infrastructure, such as testing ranges, the US must ignore calls to “slow down” in the wake of failed tests, and instead take on even more risk – and more failure – if it doesn’t want to be left behind.
Hypersonic strike systems—both hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and air-launched hypersonic missiles—are among the DoD’s most important technology and capability priorities. The 2022 NDAA includes $3.8 billion for hypersonic weapons, up from $3.2 billion in 2021. There are at least six active weapons development programs and dozens of other affiliated research and development efforts across the department.
Some critics of DoD’s hypersonics push have questioned if there is a role for hypersonic systems, arguing that any benefit they provide will be simultaneously incremental and expensive. But the utility of hypersonic strike systems in deterring and fighting modern conflicts is layered and evident.
Hypersonic weapons are not invincible. However, their combination of attributes—extremely fast, ability to strike at long ranges, difficulty to detect and track by current air and missile defense systems, maneuverability—are especially salient in an environment in which increased speed, range, lethality, and precision are necessary for holding at risk time-sensitive targets and degrading or defeating high-end A2/AD and air defense systems.
This may be even more worrying considering the belief within DoD and the US government that China and Russia’s HGVs could be armed with nuclear warheads It’s an imbalance that can only be addressed by the American pursuit of hypersonic technology to level the strategic playing field. It also places added emphasis on the need to accelerate the progress of hypersonic defense.
The Pentagon should not feel compelled to match everything China and Russia do. Some of these fielded systems may not have been sufficiently tested across a range of operational conditions and scenarios. More importantly, the US should be strategic and reflective—rather than just reflexive—in the technologies it develops and how it employs them.
And it is not just Russia and China. North Korea’s recently claimed, although dubiously, to have tested a hypersonic weapon. US allies and partners including Japan, France, South Korea, Australia (in conjunction with the US) and India all have active programs as well, reinforcing the prominent role these weapons will play in deterring and, if necessary, defeating emerging threats.
Critiques of America’s hypersonic weapons programs have also frequently and forcefully centered on the pace and success rate of DoD’s hypersonic testing. It is true that the handful of flight tests that have taken place in 2020 and 2021 are not enough.
As former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin noted last year, “We need to be doing one test a week and not one test a quarter.” Any bureaucratic challenges slowing testing are compounded by a lack of sufficient availability of testing ranges, according to a recent internal DoD report obtained by Bloomberg News.
It is also true that several tests have failed, which notionally is not necessarily a poor outcome. As a Pentagon statement following an October 2021 failed test pointed out, “experiments and tests both successful and unsuccessful are the backbone of developing highly complex and critical technologies at tremendous speed, as the department is doing with hypersonic technologies.”
However, nearly all these failures have been due to problems unrelated to the hypersonic technologies, meaning that the hypersonic technology was not deployed and lessons about it were not yet learned.
To focus exclusively on these failures and call for a more deliberate approach to hypersonic development, though, is to ignore or discount the progress DoD has made and the successful tests that have occurred, as well as the DoD’s increasing use of high-performance computing modeling and simulation capabilities in conjunction with testing.
Building on these successes and other developments across the Pentagon’s extensive hypersonic portfolio will require a more aggressive approach to testing and experimentation, including investing now in test range capacity, both in the U.S. and with key allies such as Australia.
More fundamentally, achieving DoD’s admittedly ambitious objectives for testing and fielding defenses against hypersonic weapons will require a heightened tolerance of risk. This does not mean embracing carelessness or recklessness. It does mean infusing urgency with a broad perspective on hypersonic development, learning as much as possible from each opportunity, and not being deterred from achieving long-term success by episodic short-term setbacks.
Tate Nurkin is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Forward Defense at the Atlantic Council.
Iran unveiled a new missile on Wednesday with a reported range that would allow it to reach US bases in the region and targets inside Israel.
The missile uses solid fuel and has a range of 1,450 kilometres, Iranian state TV reported. It is called the Khaibar-buster, a reference to a Jewish castle overrun by Muslim warriors in the early days of Islam.
Former UK army chief says war against Iran would be a ‘failure of statecraft’
The television report said the domestically manufactured weapon had high accuracy and could defeat missile shield systems. The information has not been independently verified.
Israel’s closest point to Iran is about 1,000km from the republic.
Several key US officials on Wednesday briefed the Senate on the status of diplomatic efforts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, with a number of senators describing the updates as “sobering”.
The briefers at the closed hearing were Robert Malley, the lead US negotiator in the indirect nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna, National Security Council co-ordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk, and an intelligence community official.
“That was a sobering and shocking briefing about where we are right now,” Democrat Chris Murphy told The National after the briefing.
“The information we got on breakout time is something we all have to really think about.”
Democrats Bob Menendez and Tim Kaine joined Republican James Risch in echoing Mr Murphy’s assessment. And Republican Ted Cruz called the briefing “troubling”.
Still, the senators remain divided over President Joe Biden’s attempts at diplomacy with Iran. Tehran has made significant technical advances since former president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.
Since then, Iran’s breakout time to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from about a year under the original deal down to a matter of weeks. And The Wall Street Journal reported last week that US officials expect Iran’s breakout time to be significantly less than a year under a restored nuclear deal.
“There’s still significant gaps between the US and Iranian side,” Mr Murphy said.
“A deal’s possible, but there’s a lot of work that has to be done.
“There needs to be modifications reflecting the reality of what’s happened since Trump’s decision to withdraw.
“It would largely be a re-entry to the agreement, but you’d have to make some modifications because of their work on advanced centrifuges.”
“On the Iranian side, during the first year of your administration, the regime has made qualitative progress towards a nuclear arsenal that requires new measures to reverse, far beyond anything envisioned by the [nuclear deal],” they wrote.
Mr Risch told reporters after the Wednesday briefing that the Biden administration’s previous promises for a “longer and stronger” Iran deal are “not going to happen”.
But Mr Risch and his allies are unlikely to muster the 60 votes necessary needed to tank any new agreement, due to a Senate procedural mechanism called the filibuster.
Russian contractors work at the Bushehr nuclear reactor site in 2007. The plant opened four years later. Bloomberg
They could, however, draw support from high-profile Democrats opposed to the deal such as Mr Menendez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — both of whom were among four Democrats to vote against the original deal in 2015.
Mr Menendez went so far as to deliver an hour-long speech on the Senate floor last week urging the Biden administration to “exert more pressure on Iran” and questioning the wisdom of salvaging the agreement.
And Mr Cruz, who signed on to Mr Risch’s letter, said after the Wednesday briefing that Mr Biden’s only chance of success would be to continue the “maximum pressure campaign” instated under Mr Trump — which consisted of crippling sanctions on Iran.
Notably, the Biden administration has not removed any of Mr Trump’s major economic sanctions on Iran and has indicated it will not do so until an agreement is reached through the indirect talks in Vienna.
The announcement came amid signals that Iran and the West were slowly bridging gaps to make their way toward restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a street exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard force to celebrate Defense Week, marking the 41st anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at the Baharestan Square in Tehran, on Sept. 25, 2021. – ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images
It was not clear to what extent Tehran’s strict demands were being addressed in the potential agreement. In his latest public stance, the spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh reasserted the Iranian position on sanctions relief with robust verifications and solid guarantees.
Along the lines of nuclear negotiations, Western powers have been pushing to talk Iranian authorities into curtailing their controversial missile program, only to face the adamant argument that Iranian missiles are not up for negotiations.
The IRGC’s plan for a new “strategic missile” was also reminiscent of a similar pattern in 2015. Only a few months after the nuclear deal had been inked, the Guards unveiled a massive “underground missile city” as a message of defiance to Western powers.
The rivalry of India and Pakistan has become the most enduring and unresolved conflict of our time. The main factors behind the rivalry include territorial nature of rivalry, disparate national identities, power symmetry and incompatibility in the strategic goals. Since the birth of the two states in 1947, both countries are engaged in wars and crises. The conflict has affected every dimension of inter-state and societal relations between the two countries. The specific factors involved in the persistence of this conflict are power asymmetry, territorial divisions, incompatible national identities, differing domestic power structures (democracy versus authoritarianism), irredentism, presence of nuclear weapons and the great power involvement.
Since late 1980s, the acquisition of nuclear weapons and terrorist tactics has led to the possibility of war in South Asia with unimaginable consequences. Enduring rivalries are defined as conflicts between two or more states that last for more than two decades with several militarized inter state disputes. The India Pakistan conflict is over territory, national identity and power position in the region. The root cause of the conflict lies in territorial, religious or ethno-cultural differences. Kashmir is the essential bone of contention between them. Among other factors that have influenced their relationship include changes in capabilities including the acquisition of nuclear capabilities, changes in government, domestic pressures, relationships with other states including the United States, Soviet Union and China, and changes in the international environment.
From 1947 to 2001, India and Pakistan were engaged in militarized confrontation. They were also engaged in significant arms acquisition competitions. From 1947 to 2001, India and Pakistan kept moving between democracy and non-democracy. The democratic transition in Pakistan had a huge impact on the rivalry. The change in leadership is also an important factor that can led to a revolution in diplomacy, peace agreement and reorientation of foreign policy. The conflict resolution mechanism suggests that third parties can reduce and resolve the conflicts. But in the case of India and Pakistan, the involvement of great powers has prolonged and institutionalized the conflict rather than ending it through negotiation. Thus, it is obvious that the resolution of the India-Pakistan conflict is not the primary motive of major powers involved
The India-Pakistan rivalry has varied significantly in intensity across time and issue area. The India-Pakistan conflict is both enduring and asymmetric. Asymmetric conflicts involve states of unequal power capability measured in terms of material resources including size, demography, military capability and economic skill. Since 1965, India’s policy has been to maintain deterrence vis-a-vis Pakistan. The presence of unresolved territorial issues encouraged the development of rivalry and is likely to escalate to war and tend to recur. A multi-dimensional analysis is needed to understand what led to the prolongation of the rivalry. The post-1998 crises including the Kargil War (1999) and the attack on the Indian Parliament (2001) followed by the Indian military’s mobilization (2002-03) emphasised on the urgent need towards resolution, which requires both favorable conditions and individual leadership efforts.
The prospects for peace between India and Pakistan are not encouraging. The origins of this rivalry, its intensity of violence, failure of mediation and conflict management and its persistence shows that the relationship is not likely to change. There are several structural factors that increase the probability of violent interaction. The ongoing territorial dispute over Kashmir and low levels of economic development for both states mean that the use of force appears to be a foreign policy instrument. The rise of Islamism and Hindu nationalism and their role in shaping state ideology and national identities has played a complex role in the rivalry. The Kashmir conflict has less to do with geo-strategic and economic significance and more with national identity. The addition of nuclear weapons may also increase pressures but both states are aware of the costs and risks associated with nuclear war. The conditions conducive to war are present but the last step remains indeterminate due to human choice.
The first step towards stability in India Pakistan relations would be for the leaders of two sides to move away from nuclear war. Each side needs to communicate to the other that there would be no relative gains but only absolute losses in nuclear war. The India-Pakistan enduring rivalry has survived the twentieth century and shows little signs of termination in future. The general instability in the conflict creates a non-conducive environment for dialogue. The rivalry is one of the longest lasting ones in contemporary world.