The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

The Pakistani Nuclear Horn’s Same Old Problems: Daniel 8

Pakistan's opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference
Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

Pakistan’s new Sharif, old problems


Former cricket star-turned politician Imran Khan, who was voted out by Pakistan’s parliament from the office of prime minister, is back doing what he does best: rabblerousing. Khan is blaming the United States for conspiring to oust him from office, while naming Pakistan’s judiciary and military as co-conspirators.

Khan’s incendiary rhetoric is threatening chaos in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation with 200 million people. The new government, headed by Shahbaz Sharif, three-time chief minister of Punjab province, now faces the difficult task of undoing the consequences of Khan’s bombast and incompetence.

Elected in 2018 as a “new broom sweeps clean” celebrity, Khan ended up dividing Pakistanis, mismanaging the economy and undermining Pakistan’s relationships abroad. Even in his last days, his claims of being victim of a foreign conspiracy have injected venom into the veins of an already troubled polity.

Many of Pakistan’s problems are endemic and predate Khan’s term in office. But like many populists, Khan paid little heed to policymaking and described himself as the solution to all problems. His followers saw him as a messiah opposing corrupt traditional politicians. But critics mocked the number of times he spoke about himself and used the words “I, me, mine,” in his longwinded speeches. In one recent 45-minute speech, the total number of first person references was more than 200.

Khan claimed he wanted Pakistan to regain its honor, which had been lost due to dependence of the West, especially the U.S. He lectured everyone about his mixture of Islamic mysticism, hyper-nationalism and “all the nation needs is an honest man like me leading it” ideology.

Describing the Taliban as people who had “broken the shackles of slavery,” Khan went out of his way to criticize the West, without regard for Pakistan’s external economic relations. The U.S. remains Pakistan’s largest export market, while Europe and the United Kingdom are significant investors and trading partners. Khan even managed to annoy Pakistan’s traditional friends and economic benefactors China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan has hoped for years to re-align its economy by expanding investments from and trade with China. But Khan failed to attract any new Chinese investment. China even expressed reservations about the competence of Khan’s economic managers in relation to ongoing infrastructure projects under the rubric of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

True to his bombastic form, Imran Khan showed up in Moscow to stand beside Vladimir Putin on the day Russian troops invaded Ukraine. The Russia trip made no foreign policy or economic sense and was undertaken against the advice of Pakistan’s military and foreign office. Pakistan’s trade with Russia is a meager $ 200 million, and Putin was no longer in a position to deliver on promises of future oil supplies, investment or trade.

Under Khan, Pakistan’s economy dived into a tailspin, with per-capita GDP declining for the first time in years. Inflation reached double digits. The rupee plunged in value. The stock market never recovered to pre-2017 levels. Khan’s own finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, has now admitted that their government had no economic plan.

The economic mismanagement and poking of Pakistan’s foreign friends in the eye annoyed Pakistan’s all-powerful military, which had helped Khan’s rise as a way of getting rid of traditional politicians who tended to challenge the military’s dominance. Once Khan attempted to interfere with the appointment of the army’s next commander, the military withdrew political support. That, in turn, led to smaller parties in parliament switching support from Khan’s coalition to the opposition.

Instead of resigning after losing a majority in parliament, as is the general practice for prime ministers in parliamentary democracies, Khan tried to block the vote of no confidence against him by claiming that it was part of a conspiracy instigated by the United States. Pakistan’s supreme court ruled against Khan and forced the vote to go through. Khan was ousted from office but is now orchestrating protests.

Khan has a hardcore cult-like following that believes anyone who doesn’t agree with their leader is a traitor to Pakistan and Islam. Khan is also hoping that there are people in the military, especially in the middle ranks, who can be swayed by the sentiment that “Pakistan is under foreign attack” by other means.

The Pakistan military leadership has made it clear that it has seen no evidence of collusion between Khan’s opponents and any foreign power, let alone the United States. The army’s chief of staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has repeatedly indicated that better relations with the U.S. are in Pakistan’s interest. But Khan is unlikely to step back from his false claims and will probably continue to fire up his base, hoping to ride an anti-American wave to success in the next elections.

That makes the task of the new prime minister, who presides over a coalition of disparate parties, all the more difficult. Sharif brings experience in governance and a calm demeanor to the job, which has helped lift the Pakistan rupee and the stock market. But changing the direction of Pakistan – which is often seen internationally as unstable and perennially crisis prone – might not be that easy.

Husain Haqqani is director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute. He served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011.

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

US Worries About the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

U.S. sees rising risk in ‘breathtaking’ China nuclear expansion

  • 20 Apr, 2022
  • Web Master

(Photo: Military vehicles carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles drive past Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during a military parade in October 2019. | REUTERS)

by Roxana Tiron


China’s “breathtaking expansion” of its strategic and nuclear arsenal is a quickly escalating risk for the United States, the head of U.S. Strategic Command plans to tell lawmakers at a closed-door hearing on Tuesday.

China’s first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile-launched hypersonic glide vehicle last July is a “technological achievement with serious implications for strategic stability,” Adm. Charles Richard wrote in prepared testimony posted on the website of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee.

The hypersonic vehicle flew 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) for more than 100 minutes, Richard wrote in the testimony — the most detailed U.S. account of the test to date. It was “the greatest distance and longest flight time of any land attack weapon system of any nation to date,” according to the testimony. Richard gave similar testimony to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees last month.

Every operational plan in the Pentagon and “every other capability we have, rests on the assumption that strategic deterrence, and in particular nuclear deterrence, will hold,” Richard said in his statement, which singled out the rising threat from Beijing as well as Moscow.

Both China and Russia have the capability to “unilaterally escalate a conflict to any level of violence, in any domain, worldwide, with any instrument of national power, and at any time,” Richard said. The U.S. armed forces no longer have “the luxury of assuming the risk is always low, particularly during a crisis,” he added.

Chinese hypersonic investments

“If strategic or nuclear deterrence fails, integrated deterrence and no other plan or capability in the DoD will work as designed,” he said, using the acronym for the Department of Defense.

China is investing heavily in hypersonic and directed energy weapons technology for global strike and defeat of missile-defense systems, anti-satellite, anti-missile, and anti-drone capabilities, Richard added.

Beijing has also boosted construction of nuclear missile fields in western China, each with about 120 missile silos, allowing the country to have “robust” ballistic missiles that would be capable of reaching the continental U.S., Richard said. Other advancements in the last year include ground-based, large phased array radars and at least one geostationary satellite capable of detecting ballistic missile launches, he said.

Russia is in its second decade of investing substantial resources to expand their strategic and nonstrategic nuclear capabilities.

New Russian bombers

According to its publicly available nuclear strategy, “Russia acknowledges it could use nuclear weapons first, including in response to conventional attacks that threaten the ‘existence of the state,’” Richard said.

Last January, Russia accepted delivery of the first of 10 brand-new Tu-160M strategic bombers with updated NV-70M radar and NK-32-02 engines, according to the testimony.

That represented “an accomplishment not seen since the Cold War,” he wrote adding that “restarting the Tu-160M production line required cooperative efforts between the Kremlin and the Russian industrial base.”

The Russian Horn Sends a Nuclear Warning: Daniel 7

Test-launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at the Plesetsk testing field.
Test-launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at the Plesetsk testing field. Photograph: Russian defence ministry/AFP/Getty Images

Russia tests nuclear-capable missile in warning to enemies

Putin boasts new intercontinental ballistic weapon will provide rivals with ‘food for thought’

ReutersWed 20 Apr 2022 12.58 EDT

Russia has said it had test-launched its Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a new addition to its nuclear arsenal, which Vladimir Putin said would give Moscow’s enemies something to think about.

The Russian president was shown on television being told by the military that the missile had been launched from Plesetsk in the north-west and hit targets in the Kamchatka peninsula in the far east.

“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence. It has no analogues in the world and will not have for a long time to come,” Putin said.

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.”

The Pentagon said on Wednesday Russia had properly notified it ahead of its test launch, adding it saw the test as routine and not a threat to the United States.

Russia is expected to deploy the Sarmat with 10 or more warheads on each missile, according to the US Congressional Research Service.

It has been in development for years and so its test-launch is not a surprise for the west, but it comes at a moment of extreme geopolitical tension due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Putin’s Nuclear Threat Makes the Bowls of Wrath Thinkable: Revelation 16

Putin’s Nuclear Threat Makes Armageddon Thinkable

By Tyler Cowen | Bloomberg

Today at 4:48 a.m. EDT

Some of the most consequential changes come upon us silently, almost without notice. The world is in the midst of one right now: Our doctrines of nuclear deterrence are obsolete and in desperate need of an update.

Some history: One of the most famous early concepts in deterrence theory was the doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction,” or MAD. Its logic was laid out by Thomas Schelling (a former doctoral advisor of mine), who won a Nobel Prize in economics in large part for his ideas on nuclear strategy.

The MAD doctrine is easy to explain: If they destroy us with nukes, we destroy them, thus creating a form of deterrence.

Sometimes Schelling is portrayed as an advocate of MAD. But he had an uneasy relationship with the doctrine. The basic dilemma was simple: Say the Soviets launched their nukes at the U.S. during the Cold War. Would a U.S. president have made the situation worse by destroying the Soviet Union in response? That would have shifted the final outcome from “Much of North America is destroyed” to “Much of North America and Europe is destroyed, and the resulting nuclear winter is much worse.” If Britain and France retaliated with their nukes — or if China, India and others entered the conflict — it would have been even worse.

Given that the U.S. loses that war no matter what, would it have retaliated in such a situation? To bring the question to the present day: Would the U.S. retaliate with a huge missile launch against a full nuclear attack?

Maybe. Or perhaps probably. But does anyone know for sure?

All it takes is one nuclear-armed maniac to decide the U.S. is not credible about retaliation in such situations. However unlikely that scenario may be, MAD has to fail only once to be an utter disaster. Or perhaps the nuclear-armed maniac is the president of the United States (or a nuclear submarine commander), striking unilaterally at a major enemy, expecting no retaliation.

The 1964 movie “Dr. Strangelove” features a Soviet doomsday device programmed to retaliate automatically if it detects an incoming attack, thereby institutionalizing MAD. A problem arises when a deranged U.S. general orders a plane to stage a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union, causing the movie’s protagonists to race to prevent catastrophe. Matters do not end well. Thomas Schelling was an adviser to that movie. It’s safe to say that, in the long run, he understood MAD was an unstable solution.

Another problem with MAD was the risk of a data accident. Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet air defense commander, in 1983 disobeyed orders and refused to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike against the U.S. It turned out that the supposed American attack was a Soviet data error, and Petrov possibly saved the world from destruction. Good for him — but such episodes have made it harder to feel good about MAD, which relies on human accuracy and judgment.

In the immediate postwar era, following the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was commonly believed that another world war would follow a nuclear one. Since the 1960s, nuclear weapons have largely receded from the public consciousness. Nonetheless, nuclear war was very much a “thinkable” concept, however horrible it might have been.

Gradually, the use of nuclear weapons shifted into the “unthinkable” category. The longer the time since the actual use of nuclear weapons, the stronger the norms against the use of nuclear weapons. The decision to use them came to be seen as a choice that would upset everything about the international world order. Even a “dirty bomb,” which might not kill a lot of people, was morally classified as unthinkable — although potentially deadlier raids with conventional bombs were not.

Following the 9/11 attacks, an earlier generation might have expected the U.S. to use at least tactical nuclear weapons against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But the U.S. did nothing of the sort, not wanting to upset the well-established norm. Did the U.S. really want a world in which it would be acceptable for Russia to use tactical nukes in, say, Chechnya? Schelling himself, in his remarks and presentations, increasingly stressed the importance of norms in thinking about nuclear weapons regulation.

Thus the world moved almost imperceptibly toward an approach to nuclear deterrence that was fundamentally different from MAD. The MAD doctrine is based on fear. The norms doctrine is rooted in a kind of complacency — namely, the expectation that any state with nuclear weapons has a meaningful stake in the world order. MAD is a doctrine of perceived insecurity. The norms doctrine is one of perceived security.

From the vantage point of 2022, it is clear that the norms doctrine, while it served useful functions for decades — just as did the MAD doctrine — has its limitations. The most obvious is that norms tend to weaken and eventually collapse.

Once the use of nuclear weapons became classified as “unthinkable,” political actors tried to extend that designation to other kinds of weapons. In doing so, they weakened the concept of unthinkability. The broader category of “weapons of mass destruction,” for example, was also supposed to be unthinkable. Yet Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used them against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. This led some countries to support Iran, but Saddam remained in power until former President George W. Bush led the war against Iraq roughly two decades later.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin that they should agree that chemical weapons should not be deployed in Syria, as that would constitute a “red line.” Syria went ahead and used them, and there was no major kinetic U.S. military response, thereby erasing that red line and possibly others.

The pattern is evident: Once the category of “unthinkable” weapons is created, it is expanded so much that it loses its credibility. Politicians tend to spend down the reputational capital that their predecessors build up.

Another problem with the norms doctrine is that, sooner or later, there is value in breaking a norm — precisely because the norm was successful.

Think back to your high school. Your teachers probably set up behavioral norms that most everyone followed. That left room for a rebel who dared to defy those norms, if only for attention and to signal non-conformity.

With nuclear weapons, it’s not as if Putin or some other political “rebel” would use a bomb to make a point or to seem cool. Rather, Putin has been finding it useful to threaten the West and NATO with possible nuclear weapons use. If enough scary threats are issued, the use of nuclear weapons no longer seems unthinkable. And as the unthinkability norm erodes, eventually someone — Putin or not — may use nukes.

Finally, as mentioned above, the norms doctrine assumed the major nuclear powers all had a stake in a status quo. The Soviets made trouble in Nicaragua and other places, for example, but at the end of the day, they were not looking to overturn the entire apple cart. That won’t always be the case. Some leaders may seek to overturn or at least revise that world order.

These days there is the risk that Putin, facing defeat in Ukraine and an untenable situation domestically, might entertain the use of nuclear weapons to change what is otherwise an impossible dynamic. In such a scenario he would have no stake in the ex ante status quo, since that would be unlikely to allow him to die peacefully in his sleep.

The new doctrine in such situations may best be described as “Escalate to de-escalate.” Imagine Putin using a tactical nuclear weapon out of desperation, perhaps in the hope that some of the coalition against him will collapse or weaken. In that case the deployment would be followed by a dictate to negotiate on terms more favorable to Russia. Putin might think the use of nuclear weapons would give him at least some chance to escape his “impossible” situation.

This isn’t panicky doomsaying. Some Kremlin insiders  say they share the fear voiced by the CIA, which recently suggested that Putin may be tempted to use small nuclear weapons. Such talk, even if accurate, further normalizes the notion that the use of nuclear weapons is not unthinkable after all.

The ongoing evolution of both nuclear and conventional weapons further blurs the distinction between the two and undercuts the notion that nuclear weapons are somehow special. On the one hand, conventional weapons are becoming more powerful. On the other, “battlefield nukes” can be more precisely targeted and therefore less generally destructive. A lot of the rest of the world — especially parts that have been bombed from the air or otherwise attacked — has already stopped seeing nuclear weapons as so special. As the Cold War recedes from memory, that trend is likely to continue.

Israel, an assumed but unacknowledged nuclear power, is in many ways a leading indicator of warfare trends, and it offers yet another example of how nuclear deterrence is evolving. Two developments are worth noting, both extensions of earlier trends but nonetheless reaching new extremes.

The first might be called “warfare by any other name.” For instance, since 2017 Israel has carried out more than 400 airstrikes, typically directed at Iranian or Iranian-supported forces in Syria, with some in Lebanon and Iraq. It also seems true that Israel has used drones to carry out strikes within Iran, and Iran sometimes retaliates (it sent missiles to take out Mossad offices in Iraq, for instance).

These mutual attacks have become institutionalized on both sides. Israel is even reputed to have a hotline with Russia to ensure that Israeli attacks in Syria do not kill Russian troops.

These attacks are not typically big news in the U.S., and no one (yet?) goes around saying that Israel is openly at war with Iran. Yet arguably Israel is openly at war with Iran — it’s just that no one says so too loudly.

Countries seem increasingly able to classify attacks as intermediate events of less than full urgency, avoiding the need for a major immediate escalation of deterrence. The U.S., Russia and Russia-affiliated agents have led many thousands of cyberattacks against one another, for example, which is a kind of war. Yet the important point is that no one regards these attacks as literal acts of war.

Such an ability to look the other way is useful in the moment. But over time, is it stable? The risk is that quite a few countries are de facto at war with each other, yet no one ever quite admits it, and so those conflicts continue and escalate slowly. It seems naïve to believe they will remain contained forever — and the gradual nature of the escalation may render it all the more likely.

The second Israeli development is Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement of Israel’s new “Iron Beam” system, which is supposed to use lasers to knock down incoming drones. Bennett notes the system has been successfully tested, though it remains an open question how far it is from being practically meaningful. Still, if better defenses against drones are possible, then they are also possible against missiles — and they will change the calculus of nuclear deterrence.

If you can rapidly vaporize the missiles headed your way, a first strike, nuclear or otherwise, becomes thinkable once again. The forthcoming retaliation from your enemy might not penetrate your defenses enough to destroy you. Even if these defensive systems are years away, the countries lagging in this technology race will see them coming, and they may decide to engage in their preferred military actions sooner rather than later. Why wait until the odds have turned against you?

In other words: Better defenses, which are inevitable, will start the problem of nuclear deterrence all over again.

The lessons of these developments, taken as a whole, are disturbing. We used to think of nuclear deterrence as a problem that, once all major countries had enough weapons to kill each other many times over, had been solved. That was wrong. Any doctrine of nuclear deterrence is set in a particular political and social context and is relative to a particular set of expectations. As it turns out, each generation needs to reinvent successful nuclear deterrence for itself.

Are we up to the task? Is it even on anyone’s political agenda? We will find out, I suspect, soon enough.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Iran Confirms They Are Nuking Up: Daniel 8

Iran confirms relocating centrifuge facility to underground site

 Natanz is an uranium enrichment facility about 250km south of the Iranian capital Tehran. Photo: Twitter

Iran confirms relocating centrifuge facility to underground site

 Associated Press|   Posted by Sakina Fatima  |   Published: 17th April 2022 4:55 pm IST

Tehran: Iran has confirmed it relocated a centrifuge facility to its underground Natanz nuclear site, state media reported, days after the U.N. atomic watchdog said it installed surveillance cameras to monitor the new workshop at Tehran’s request.

The late Saturday report by the official IRNA news agency comes as diplomatic efforts to restore Iran’s tattered nuclear deal appear stalled.

The news agency quoted the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, as saying authorities had moved the operation to a safer place.

Iran’s centrifuge facility in Karaj found itself targeted in what Iran described as a sabotage attack in June. Natanz itself has twice been targeted in sabotage attacks amid uncertainty over the nuclear deal, assaults that Iran has blamed on Israel.

“Unfortunately because of a terrorist operation that took place against Karaj, we were obliged to intensify security measures under which we moved an important part of the machines and transferred the rest to Natanz and Isfahan,” said Kamalvandi. Isfahan is the location of another Iranian nuclear facility.

On Thursday, The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said it installed cameras and removed seals from machines at the new workshop in Natanz two days earlier. Those machines will be used to make centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows, crucial parts for the devices that spin at very high speeds to enrich uranium gas.

Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. There is concern that Iran could be closer to being able to construct an atomic weapon if it chose to pursue one.

The nuclear deal collapsed four years ago when former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States and imposed crushing sanctions on Iran. In the meantime, Iran has vastly expanded its nuclear work.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday insisted negotiations over the deal “are going ahead properly,” even after repeated comments by American officials that an agreement to restore the accord may not happen.

The nuclear deal saw Iran put advanced centrifuges into storage under the watch of the IAEA, while keeping its enrichment at 3.67% purity and its stockpile at only 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium.

As of Feb. 19, the IAEA says Iran’s stockpile of all enriched uranium was nearly 3,200 kilograms (7,055 pounds). Some has been enriched up to 60% purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Meanwhile, Iran has stopped the IAEA from accessing its surveillance camera footage.

Kamalvandi reiterated Iran’s stance that Tehran will not provide data from the cameras to the U.N. nuclear agency if a deal is not concluded.

Iran long has insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. However, U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had an organized military nuclear program up until 2003.

Iran Blocks the Antichrist’s New Government

Iraq politics

Alliance blocks formation of new Iraqi government

An Iran-backed minority alliance has caused delays, and the process of creating a new Iraqi government may take many months.

Iraqi members of the Sadrist bloc (of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr), gather inside the Iraqi parliament in the capital Baghdad, ahead of the country’s presidential election, on March 26, 2022. The election was again postponed over a lack of quorum. – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

Mustafa Saadoun


April 20, 2022

BAGHDAD — Iraq is witnessing a political deadlock following the parliament’s third failure to select a president.

The largest parliamentary bloc, Saving the Homeland — which consists of the Shiite Sadrist Movement, the Sunni coalition of Sovereignty and the Kurdistan Democratic party — has failed to collect the two-thirds of parliament members required for selecting the president. On the other side, Iran-backed groups, which consists of the Shiite Coordination Framework, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a small number of Sunni members, were able to form a blocking third, making it impossible to select the president without their agreement.

Iraqi President Barham Salih warned on April 9 that “the ongoing political crisis may lead the country toward a dangerous maze in which everyone will lose.”

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said on the same day, “Our people are waiting for an Iraqi reform government, and I believe that we all share the same national mission, which is to stop the obstruction and reach a level of agreement, trust and cooperation.”

Ammar al-Hakeem, head of the National Wisdom Movement, put forward an initiative for dialogue to end “the political blockage.”

The large Iraqi political parties have not yet held a session to elect a new president, although it has been around 100 days since the new parliament’s first session.

This is due to the Federal Court’s decision Feb. 3, which ruled that “the session to elect the President must be attended by at least two-thirds of MPs, and that two-thirds of the total number of MPs must vote.”

Based on the court’s interpretation, the session to elect the President must be attended by at least 220 MPs out of 329, which was not achieved during two sessions held in March, as the tripartite coalition that includes Muqtada al-Sadr, Massoud Barzani and Mohammed al-Halbousi failed to achieve quorum.

The Coordinating Framework, which objected to the election results, saw this as a victory. The winning blocs did not agree on a candidate for the presidency, but the Iraqi constitution requires that the president assign the candidate of the largest bloc to form a government.

The failure of the two sessions angered Sadr, and he decided on March 31 to stop negotiations on forming a government and called on the Coordinating Framework to negotiate with the other blocs to form a government within 40 days.

Khaled Abdel-Ilah, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The constitution did not mention the blocking third that the Federal Court spoke of. Through this interpretation, the court wanted to provide a balance within the political process.”

The Coordinating Framework fears that Sadr will exclude it while taking over the Shiites’ share in the government, and it has asked why half the Shiites are excluded from the government formation while all Sunnis and Kurds will participate.

The State of Law Coalition’s Maliki said on April 5, “The tripartite coalition cannot hold a session to elect the President, and neither can the Coordination Framework.” He added, “We must return to the principle of the largest bloc to form a government, which is the prerogative of the Shiite component.”

The interpretation of the Federal Court forces the political blocs to return to political consensus, but this is rejected by Sadr, who is considered the top winner in the October 2021 elections, in which he won 73 seats out of 329 in Parliament.

The Coordination Framework accuses Sadr of trying to take over the Shiites’ share in the government formation ministries. Khazali said during an interview with Al-Sharqiya TV on April 9, “Sadr wants to choose the prime minister and wants the 12 ministries that are from the Shiites’ share to be his. I have heard these words directly.”

Abbas al-Anbori, head of the Rewaq Baghdad Center for Public Policy, told Al-Monitor, “The invention of the term ‘the blocking third’ is aimed at forcing blocs to reach political consensus.” He added, “The basic idea of the current political system is consensual, and this is what is happening now.”

Some believe that the “blocking third” is an Iranian concept that has been implemented in Lebanon since 2008, ensuring its participation in the formation of Lebanese governments. It is similar to what is happening in Iraq, especially since the “blocking third” blocs are Iran’s most important allies in Iraq.

The blocking third can be described as the real guarantor of all the major Iraqi political parties for not being excluded from any government formation, a path that brings them back to consensus in forming governments as happened previously, but it may be with new names, such as a national majority government, or a government of balance or others labels.

Forming a new Iraqi government is expected to take a long time. The government of 2010 took about 10 months, for reasons similar to today, especially the interpretation of the “largest bloc” that presents a candidate for prime minister.

China Developing Nuclear Arsenal ‘for Global Domination’: Revelation 16

China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

China Developing Nuclear Arsenal ‘for Global Domination’: Expert

By Andrew Thornebrooke and David Zhang

April 19, 2022 Updated: April 19, 2022

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is building up its nuclear arsenal as part of a greater effort to undermine the West and create a new international order in its own image, according to one expert.

I don’t think [China is] building up its forces just for the deterrence factor,” said Peter Pry, Director of the U.S. nuclear strategy forum at the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based think tank.

“I think it’s building up its nuclear forces for global domination.”

Pry made the comments during a recent interview with EpochTV’s “China Insider.” He said that U.S. leadership was too slow in adapting to the evolving threat of the CCP, in no small part because of the deep financial ties many American businesses have with China.

“We have been very slow to realize the consequences of neglecting our nuclear forces, and only now we’re waking up waking up to it,” Pry said.

“Many in Washington are still reluctant to accept that reality because many fortunes have been made in the West based on trade with China.”

Pry said that the CCP was playing a long strategic game with the buildup and modernization of its nuclear forces. A key goal of China’s nuclear program, he said, was to ensure that China could overcome Russia in the distant future, after the two nations’ partnership had pushed the United States out of its global leadership role.

“They don’t want to be inferior to Russia or anyone in their nuclear capabilities,” Pry said. “That’s why they’re building it up. It’s not just over Taiwan. It’s taking the long view. It’s looking at the strategic balance of power.”

Russia currently has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with around 1,500 deployed nuclear weapons and 6,257 warheads in total. The United States is next, with about 1400 deployed systems and 5,550 warheads in total. Between 1,500-2,000 warheads in both nations’ arsenals are retired and awaiting disarmament.

China, meanwhile, is currently reported to have around 350 warheads, but a recent Pentagon report warned that the CCP was drastically increasing production and modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and that it would have 1,000 nuclear weapons by 2030.

Pry believes that estimate to be far too low, and said he expected the real number of Chinese warheads to reach around 4,000 by 2030, based on the speed with which the CCP is constructing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and silos, and producing uranium.

That push toward nuclear proliferation and eventual dominance was important, Pry said, because Chinese communist leadership did not share the United States’ aversion to initiating nuclear conflict.

“I think the West is extremely dangerous and delusional in thinking that Russian and Chinese strategic culture is the same as ours, that they share the same view as we do about nuclear weapons being unusable, that you can’t fight and win a nuclear war,” Pry said.

“I think the problem is a profound difference in the strategic cultures of authoritarian and totalitarian states versus free societies, democracies, like the United States. Our strategic culture is one of what I would call ‘dysfunctional optimism’. You know, we always look at the best possible outcome.”

The CCP formally maintains a policy of no first use, meaning that it has vowed not to initiate nuclear conflict and to never use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

The regime’s purported dedication to this vow has been increasingly questioned, however.

The Pentagon’s aforementioned report on CCP nuclear proliferation found that Chinese strategists had debated the merits of nuclear first use, and Pry noted that Chinese state media had threatened both Australia and Japan with nuclear aggression in recent months.

Pry warned that the United States had taken a “30 year holiday” in modernizing its own nuclear arsenal, thus providing China and Russia the time needed to develop strategic capabilities capable of matching or overcoming U.S. defenses, such as the CCP’s test of a nuclear capable hypersonic weapon system in July of last year.

“All the [U.S.] delivery systems or submarines or ICBMs or bombers date back to Ronald Reagan or before,” Pry said. “We’re living off the legacy of 30, 40, 50 years ago in terms of both our nuclear delivery systems and of the weapons themselves.”

“We are in a situation where nuclear war is not just a theoretical thing anymore,” Pry said. “We desperately need to get back from the edge of that.”