While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
The US has not lost sight of its biggest global challenger and military rival, China, despite its preoccupation with the Russia-Ukraine war. This becomes evident as the US undertakes exercises in the Indo-Pacific at a time when a war is being fought in Eastern Europe.
This sentiment echoes among the highest echelons of the US military. Recently, US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told an audience at the Brookings Institution that China posed a “far more serious and long-term challenge and threat” to the United States’ strategic capabilities than Russia.
“Of the two I am much more concerned about China than Russia,” Kendall said. “They have the resources, they have the capability [and] they have the intent.”
Kendall indicated that China has the time to develop long-term military weapons that will be able to destroy the US’s long-term ability to project force around the world.
Kendall did not specify the kind of military weapons that he was referring to. However, the comments somewhat lend credence to China’s state-of-the-art military and technological advances, for example, its hypersonic program, which has far outpaced the United States.
“China has the ambition to be the great power on the face of the earth. They have the ambition to be the great global power and to do that they have to displace the United States,” he said.
These remarks are very significant because the United States is embroiled in a bitter rivalry with China, with tensions at an all-time high in the Indo-Pacific region and other geographies where the two are competing for power and influence.
One reason why China could be seen as a bigger challenger than Russia is because of its GDP. Nitin J Ticku, a defense expert and managing editor of the EurAsian Times says — forget Russia, even the USSR was never as rich as China is today. Chinese military spending is roughly four times that of Russia and could bypass the overall American economy in a decade. These are ominous signs for the US.
The major difference between the two US adversaries is — Russia is interested in territorial gains that would allow it to secure its frontiers from an expansionist NATO and, China, on the other hand, seeks to dominate the international landscape and wrest the hegemony that has been held by the US since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
China has been marching towards regions that have traditionally been the American sphere of influence and threatening the status quo, which is often seen as a threat to the security of the regional US allies.
Closer home, China has territorial disputes with several South-East Asian countries in the South China Sea. Beijing claims practically the entire region and has used intimidation as a tactic to corner the smaller states (aligned with the US) that it has disputes with — including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. It has built artificial islands to further secure its ownership and militarized them, against warnings.
In its neighborhood, China remains marred in a border conflict with the strategic partner of the United States and the cornerstone of the Indo-Pacific policy, India.
Both nations fought a brief but bitter war in 1962 and recently were involved in a bloody confrontation along the disputed Himalayan border.
Besides, China is also arming India’s bitter enemy, Pakistan with cutting-edge equipment to challenge India’s influence in the region, cultivating Islamabad’s Navy to function as a PLA proxy until Beijing can exponentially enhance its presence in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
China has also constructed a military base in Africa on Djibouti Island and is expanding far and wide into the African continent through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Africa has traditionally been in the British, French, and American spheres of influence.
Though Indo-Pacific rivals led by the US have come up with a counter-initiative called the Blue Dot Network, they are still years away from reaching the scale of investment and trade that Beijing currently enjoys. Its (Chinese) massive capital and military power have been instrumental in its quest to Africa.
However, the most significant flashpoint between the US and China goes through the Taiwan Strait. China has vowed to reunite Taiwan with the Chinese mainland, with force if necessary.
Despite accepting the One-China policy, the US has extended military support to Taipei and remains the biggest obstacle for China to gobble Taiwan.
Another major stakeholder in the Taiwan issue is a staunch US ally, Japan. By its location close to Taiwan, any aggression against the island state is expected to draw Japan into the conflict which could risk a direct military confrontation between China and the US.
According to Pacific Commander in the US Air Force, Kenneth Wilsbach, China has very sophisticated Anti-Access/Area-Denial capabilities along its coast to repel any possible attack on itself. If an armed confrontation was to take place between the US and China, the latter would have a homeland advantage against the US.
China’s growing influence among the Pacific Island Countries (PIC) also threatens the existing regional order where Canberra is the first responder.
Further, China has also stationed missiles like the DF-26 that threaten American assets as far as Guam, which hosts a critical American military base in the region.
The heat has been felt by Australia which is now in the process of developing its nuke submarine equipped with nuclear propulsion technology sourced from the US and the UK under the AUKUS agreement. The three partners will also cooperate on the development of hypersonic missiles as was announced recently.
China has also made inroads into the Latin American region, riding on the plank of the Belt and Road Initiative. The region is the United States’ backyard where it has historically exerted influence and on several occasions, even by suppressing popular movements.
Chinese investment and its growing influence in the Caribbean region is a clear red line given that Venezuela and Cuba already favor Russia.
In a surprising turn of events, China has also now reached as far as Siberia in Europe. In a semi-secret mission that took place earlier, Chinese transport aircraft YJ-20 delivered surface to air missile system to Siberia passing through Turkish and the airspace of other European nations.
A common pattern among all these regions is the Chinese ambition of dismantling the existing world order to slowly make space for itself next to the US and then gradually assuming the role of a global hegemon – a reputation that has so far only been enjoyed by the United States.
On top of that, the fact that China is a close ally of Russia is also detrimental to the interests of the US. It has issued several warnings to China against supplementing Russia or helping it circumvent global sanctions but doubts persist.
China has not only refused to condemn Russia for the invasion of Ukraine but also reinforced its relationship with Moscow.
China’s stupendous military rise has unsettled the United States whose military prowess is being constantly challenged by the People’s Liberation Army.
A US Congressional report had earlier mentioned that the Chinese Navy has the largest naval fleet by size. China, according to US Navy Chief Admiral Michael Gilday, is a formidable military enemy that is constantly developing and achieving its goals years ahead of schedule, putting pressure on the US Navy.
The US Air Force has also accepted China’s air prowess. US Air Force Chief Charles Brown had earlier said that China would be able to surpass the US Air dominance by 2035. He had said that the PLA had “the largest aviation forces in the Pacific” and had created them “underneath our nose”.
A domain where the US trails behind not just China but also Russia is the hypersonic weapons program. Both China and Russia have operational hypersonic missiles, with Russia even using its missile in the Ukrainian invasion.
However, the US is still some time away from fielding a weapon. However, efforts are on to achieve that objective in full earnest and the HAWC test conducted by the US secretly in the recent past was hailed as a success.
The US faces a serious challenge from China, even in space. After the International Space Station retires sometime around 2030, China could be the only country to operate a space station, that too single-handedly.
So while the US is having to dole out significant resources for Ukraine, it recognizes the threat from Russia will not last forever and that the Chinese dragon is only going to get bigger and bigger.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday called on the Iraqi parliament’s independent members to form the country’s next government after rivaling Coordination Framework are seemingly failing to capitalize on Sadr’s 40-day ultimatum to form a government excluding his alliance.
With the Iraqi government formation process in turmoil, Sadr in a statement asked the legislature’s 43 independent members, to form a government “within a maximum period of 15 days”.
The Sadrist Movement leader affirmed that “the larger coalition will vote on their government” should they successfully manage to complete the task.
His main rival is the Coordination Framework, a pro-Iran Shiite alliance that has repeatedly opposed his calls for a national majority government, instead vying for the more familiar government based on political consensus.
The cleric also reiterated his request to Coordination Framework members whom he thinks “well of” to enter an alliance with the Sadrist bloc in hopes that they will “give priority to national interests” and stray from “forced political obstruction”.
As part of a greater initiative, the Coordination Framework on Wednesday asked the Kurdish political parties to unify their positions on a candidate for the post of Iraq’s next president, with the KDP and the Coordination Framework-aligned Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) supporting different presidential candidates.
The KDP has fielded Reber Ahmed as a challenger to incumbent Barham Salih, PUK’s pick for the post.
On March 31, Sadr announced that he would cease government formation efforts in a 40-day window given to the “obstructing third,” referring to the Coordination Framework, to rally other political parties and form a government, a deadline that is expected to expire next week.
Boycotts over disagreements in the government formation process have caused Iraq’s different alliances to fail in electing a president on three occasions, almost seven months after the country held early elections.
Iraq held snap elections on October 10. The vote was called in response to mass protests in the country beginning in October 2019, caused by widespread dissatisfaction with Iraq’s politicians and endemic corruption in the country.
Iran’s rulers are demanding too much even for Biden
The clerical regime is insisting the U.S. lift its designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Biden is not capitulating.
(May 4, 2022 / JNS) For months, the smart money has been betting that a nuclear deal between President Joe Biden and Iran’s rulers was a sure thing.
Biden had promised that any new agreement that would be “longer and stronger” than the deal former President Barack Obama concluded in 2015 and from which former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018. But Iran’s rulers refused to go along. They demanded concession after concession, knowing that Biden’s envoys would claim they’d prevented the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—even if that claim was in stark contrast with reality.
If Iran’s rulers kept their end of the bargain—unlikely if history is any guide—the doors of the nuclear weapons club would still open to them soon enough. The deal would be an echo of the Agreed Framework of 1994 which then-President Bill Clinton proudly proclaimed would prevent North Korea from becoming nuclear-armed.
Now for the good news: Tehran’s most recent demand has brought the negotiations to a screeching halt.
The clerical regime is insisting the United States lift its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Biden has not capitulated.
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Perhaps that’s because he knows that more than 600 Americans have been killed by weapons that, according to a U.S. Army study, were developed under IRGC auspices specifically to kill Americans, smuggled into Iraq, and given to Shi’ite militias whom the IRGC trained in their use.
He certainly knows that the IRGC is responsible for attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon and that it supports Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthis.
Most of those pushing for a weaker and shorter version of Obama’s deal don’t dispute that the IRGC is a terrorist organization, but argue that the designation is merely “symbolic” and therefore unimportant. This should surprise the State Department, which maintains an FTO list of over 70 terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Obama administration added 25 organizations to the list.
Last week, a delegation of Gold Star families, relatives of American military personnel killed or wounded by Iranian weapons, came to Washington to urge Biden not to remove the FTO designation.
The visit follows up on a letter sent recently to Biden by over 900 wounded veterans and Gold Star family members opposing the lifting of the IRGC’s terrorist designation.
A letter sent earlier this year by more than a thousand vets and family members urged Biden not to release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian funds. That money should be used to compensate parents and spouses of those killed or wounded by the Islamic Republic and its agents. If transferred to Tehran’s rulers, the money will instead underwrite more terrorism and aggression.
As this controversy plays out, the IRGC is not laying low. On Saturday, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying: “In recent months, attempts made by the Iranian regime to assassinate a U.S. General in Germany, a journalist in France and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey were foiled. … These terror attacks were ordered, approved and funded by the senior leadership of the Iranian regime and were intended to be executed by the IRGC.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acknowledged that Tehran poses “an ongoing threat against American officials present and past.”
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier in the week, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asked Blinken: “Is it true that American negotiators made specific requests for a commitment that the IRGC will stop trying to murder former American officials and is it true that they said no?”
He added: “If they are actively refusing, saying, ‘No, we’re going to keep trying to murder your former secretary of state,’ the idea that our negotiators are sitting in Vienna saying, ‘Okay, that’s great, so how many more billions can we give you?’—that doesn’t make any sense.”
Unmentioned was the fact that Iran’s theocrats, in addition to targeting former and current U.S. government officials, have threatened several Iran experts at think tanks, including the one where I hang my hat.
Those with longer memories will recall that, in 2011, the FBI foiled a plot to bomb Cafe Milano, a posh Georgetown restaurant, while Adel al-Jubeir, then the Saudi ambassador to the United States, was taking his supper. Diners at tables near him would have been collateral damage.
That plot, along with many others, is believed to have been orchestrated by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, whose specialty was running terrorist and paramilitary operations around the world. President Obama vowed serious consequences but never delivered them.
In January 2020, however, Soleimani was the target of an airstrike in Baghdad ordered by Trump, who explained in a tweet that the general had “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time and was plotting to kill many more.” Iran’s rulers pledged “severe revenge.” Subsequent attacks on Americans in Iraq and elsewhere appear not to have satisfied that desire.
Several Democrats have now joined Republicans in opposing the lifting of the FTO designation. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News on Sunday: “I want the administration to understand that no deal is better than a bad deal.”
What happens next? The logic by which Iran’s rulers make their decisions is difficult to fathom.
As for Biden, he could go wobbly. But it’s also possible he’ll decide to consider other means to prevent the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear-armed terrorist sponsor. If so, Israel and its Arab allies (now there’s a phrase I never expected to write) will be pleased to offer suggestions.
Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and a columnist for “The Washington Times.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. (File/AFP)
United States is now preparing equally for both a scenario where there is a mutual return to compliance with Iran on a nuclear deal, as well as one in which there is not an agreement, the State Department said on Wednesday. “We remain committed to testing the proposition as to whether we can achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. “Because a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, is very much an uncertain proposition, we are now preparing equally for either scenario,” he added. The US is also preparing for a scenario in which there is no nuclear deal with its allies and partners in the event they “have to turn to other tactics and other approaches” to ensure that Iran is never allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, Price told reporters. A mutual return to compliance would “significantly prolong the breakout time,” he said, which is “the time that it would take Iran to acquire the fissile material necessary for a nuclear weapon should it make the decision to weaponize.” It would also “reimpose the most stringent verification and monitoring program ever peacefully negotiated on a nuclear program that has not been subject to it for several years now.” Price added that although they have made “significant progress” in nuclear negotiations to revive the deal in Vienna in recent months, they have not been able to close an agreement and it remains uncertain and unclear” if they will be able to. Meanwhile, the US Senate voted 86-12 — with strong bipartisan support — for a “motion to instruct” sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz seeking a report on terrorism-related sanctions on Iran and saying such sanctions are necessary to limit cooperation between China and Iran. If it became law, the provision could complicate delicate negotiations on the international Iran nuclear deal, although western officials have largely lost hope that the pact can be resurrected, four years after former Republican President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018. (With Reuters)
This was the second time in a week the Gaza-based terror group has threatened war over Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount. Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said on April 30 that war would erupt unless Israel ceased enforcing the law at the Al Aqsa mosque, and accused Arab Knesset member Mansour Abbas of treachery for joining Israel’s coalition government.
Also on Tuesday, Hamas condemned Israel’s decision to disconnect the loudspeaker system at the Al Aqsa mosque ahead of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, which began on Tuesday evening with a ceremony at the Western Wall, adjacent to the mosque.
“The Zionist occupation bears full responsibility for the consequences of this crime,” said Hamas, according to Ynet. “The banning by the Zionist occupation authorities of evening prayer callouts from the blessed Al Aqsa mosque constitutes severe harm, and harm to the sanctity of the mosque,” said Hamas.
On Monday, Hamas operatives displayed a massive banner in the Temple Mount compound, bearing an Eid al-Fitr message to the Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem, against the backdrop of a terrorist armed with a shoulder-fired missile.
“Hamas offers the Arab and Islamic nation best Eid al-Fitr wishes,” read the sign. Eid al-Fitr is marked by Muslims at the end of the month of Ramadan.
It’s been more than 75 years since nuclear bombs were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, bringing World War II to an end with Japan’s unconditional surrender. Since then, somehow, the world has avoided further use of nuclear weapons in anger, even during grave crises such as the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1983 Able Archer incident.
In 2022 the world faces a new nuclear threat, with the risk that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine could turn into a wider war between NATO and Moscow that escalates past the nuclear threshold or, alternatively, Russia’s use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. CIA Director William Burns said on 14 April: ‘Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far, militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons.’
A Russian defeat at the conventional military level would increase the likelihood of Putin going nuclear, perhaps as part of a strategy of ‘escalate to de-escalate’ in which a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon is detonated in Ukraine. Such a move would either seek to turn the tide of battle or serve as a warning shot to Kyiv and NATO to accept Russia’s terms for ending the war.
If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast. We have all the tools for this, things no one else can boast of having now. And we will not boast—we will use them if necessary. And I want everyone to know that.
With the West expanding its assistance to Ukraine, the possibility that Putin could interpret it as intervention generates another pathway to escalation.
It’s not clear how NATO would respond to the use of a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine—or, for that matter, large-scale use of chemical weapons against Ukrainian targets. The chemical weapons scenario is perhaps more likely, given that norms of non-use of chemical weapons have already been eroded by Syria’s large-scale use of a range of them against its own people in 2014. Use of such weapons by Russia might simply attract intensified sanctions and political condemnation. Tactical nuclear use would be a different matter altogether.
Use of a nuclear weapon—even a low-yield tactical weapon—would represent a fundamental shift in global security. It would shatter the norm of non-use of nuclear weapons, and absent an effective response by NATO, would usher in a new era in which states would perceive such weapons as credible options for warfighting, not just for deterrence.
Other nuclear-armed states might move to prioritise low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, and non-nuclear states that had nuclear ambitions, such as Iran, might decide that participating in non-proliferation and arms control is no longer a priority. Negotiations on restoring the nuclear deal with Iran could become a casualty of nuclear escalation in Ukraine and North Korea is already well into developing a range of new tactical nuclear forces.
Of course, not responding—or responding weakly, such as with intensified economic sanctions and political condemnation—isn’t the only option open to NATO in the event Russia uses a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Direct military intervention at a conventional level, to strike at Russian nuclear-capable delivery systems, would be one option; another would be deployment of NATO forces on the ground to directly support Ukrainian forces in battle.
But any direct military intervention by NATO, even below the nuclear threshold, would almost inevitably lead to a wider NATO–Russia war, and with it, the near certainty of nuclear escalation. It’s that spectre of nuclear war—as opposed to a single detonation—that constrains NATO’s responses, even in the face of Russian atrocities in Bucha and Kramatorsk. In particular, the prospect of such a war escalating to strategic nuclear exchanges and devastating the planet will be in the minds of NATO decisionmakers.
So, there’s a risk now emerging that in the face of military defeat at the conventional level, Russia will use nuclear weapons and plunge the world into a new and uncertain future. It’s a future in which low-yield nuclear weapons become usable in conflicts, certainly in terms of implicit and explicit coercive threats against military intervention—as China might do in a Taiwan crisis. In the worst case, a different perception of the operational utility of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons emerges in comparison to strategic nuclear forces. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and the question is whether it can ever be put back in.
A Russian use of low-yield nuclear weapons that quickly leads to Kyiv’s acceptance of terms dictated by Moscow would be the worst of all outcomes in Ukraine—at least apart from a broader war leading to global thermonuclear war. Moscow would change the international security order for the worse, dramatically escalating the threat of a war with NATO and worsening the continent’s security outlook, while fundamentally shifting the perception of the utility of nuclear weapons. A key norm in the rules-based order would collapse, along with non-proliferation. Instead, Western liberal democracies would have to reconcile with states that saw nuclear weapons as highly desirable capabilities for deterrence, for coercion and for use.
In the Indo-Pacific, we’d need to consider the prospect that China might alter or abandon its no-first-use nuclear policy and place greater emphasis on developing tactical and substrategic nuclear forces for coercion and possible use in a future Taiwan crisis.
Russia’s explicit and implicit nuclear posturing sets a dangerous precedent of threats to coerce, in which any response may lead to uncontrolled escalation to nuclear war. In effect, Moscow has demonstrated a failure of Western deterrence below the threshold of strategic nuclear war and, at the same time, has achieved escalation dominance at the tactical nuclear level. It’s a lesson that won’t be lost on other states.