The Antichrist: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Muqtada al-Sadr: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Shia leader’s appeal to the disenfranchised and the low voter turnout factored into his alliance’s surprise victory.

by Arwa Ibrahim

17 May 2018

Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr surprised the world when his Sairoon Alliance captured more parliamentary seats than any other party or alliance in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

Once known as a staunch anti-American militia leader, al-Sadr has rebranded himself in recent years as a patriotic champion of the poor and an anti-corruption firebrand.

This rebranding, along with the low voter turnout of only 44.52 percent, were, according to analysts, the main factors that enabled Sairoon – an alliance between the Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s Communist Party – to win six of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad.

Although final results are yet to be released, most of the country’s politicians have accepted the tally so far, which has seen Sairoon win more than 1.3 million votes, winning 54 out of 329 parliament seats. Without an outright majority, al-Sadr will still need to build an alliance with other blocs to form the new government.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi – an ally of both the United States and Iran – al-Sadr’s positioning against dominant pro-Iran Shia blocs and away from the US is likely to rock established interests in Iraq.

‘Man of the poor’

By projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist and mixing his resistance to US presence in the early 2000s with Shia religiosity – as the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a highly regarded scholar throughout the Shia Muslim world – al-Sadr became a figurehead for many of Iraq’s poor Shia Muslims.

Since 2003, his followers have provided healthcare services, food and clean water across many parts of Iraq’s poor suburbs and especially in Sadr City, a district of Baghdad named after his father. Al-Sadr’s militia has since acted in Sadr City almost unhindered by US and Iraqi forces to influence local councils and government. This established his zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed.

Similarly, Sairoon’s 2018 election campaign used anti-corruption rhetoric and focused on cutting across sectarian platforms, appealing to frustrated Iraqis who complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, poverty and weak public institutions.

“For a couple of years, Sadr has been arguing against the level of corruption in the government,” which, according to Talha Abdulrazaq, an Iraq expert at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, attracted “the predominant demographic of Shia, working-class neighbourhoods” in the six provinces that voted for Sairoon.

While top politicians in suits voted in Baghdad’s Green Zone on May 12, al-Sadr cast his ballot at a school in a poor district of Najaf, a hub for Iraq’s Shia communities. Footage of him dressed in his trademark turban and robe reinforced his image as a maverick who appeals to the disenfranchised.

According to Abdulrazaq, al-Sadr’s alliance with Iraq’s Communist Party also worked in his favour.

“The communists are well organised on a grassroots level which allowed the bloc to mobilise,” said Abdulrazaq, highlighting the long history of partnership between Iraq’s Shia and communist groups. According to him, many of the communist movements’ recruits have been Shia Arabs.

Fanar al-Haddad, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, agreed: “Sadr has always appealed to the Shia working class and his alliance with the communists chimed into the image of a reformer and someone who wants to bring in new blood.”

Voters in Baghdad complained that most candidates running were part of the same elite. They told Al Jazeera that they were in search for “new faces and wanted change”.

In contrast to other blocs, Sairoon Alliance offered the voters new candidates, including the likes of Muntadhar al-Zaidi – a journalist famed for hurling a shoe at former US President George W Bush during his visit to Baghdad in 2008.

Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr cast his vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Najaf [Reuters]

Low voter turnout

In addition to his grassroots appeal, the low voter turnout, which was 15 percent less than in 2014, worked in al-Sadr’s favour, according to analysts.

“While Sadr has a support base that is fairly solid and inelastic – unlike other party leaders, the result is equally a function of the low turnout for his rivals,” said al-Hadad.

The majority of Iraqis did not vote, partly due to an online boycott campaign spearheaded by activists.

Meanwhile, with millions of predominantly Sunni internally displaced persons (IDPs) unable or uninterested to vote, “the results were skewed in Sadr’s favour”, said Abudlrazaq, who explained that the millions of IDPs in urgent need of basic assistance “have had more important things to think about than voting”.

With Iraq having more than 2 million people displaced since 2014 and living in IDP camps, Sunni leaders demanded that the elections be postponed until these communities could return to their homes. Their appeals were not addressed.

Although the government set up 166 polling stations in 70 camps for internally displaced persons, IDP voters reported facing difficulties, which left few able to cast their ballots.

Shifting alliances

Al-Sadr did not stand as a candidate himself, so he will not head the new government, although his alliance will have a big say in the composition of the as-yet unclear future government

Domestically, al-Sadr’s eyes seem to be set on forging alliances with a variety of blocs to fight corruption and allow for an independent, non-sectarian government of technocrats, according to a Tuesday address made by his spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi.

But he appears to wish to stay away from two groups heavily aligned with Iran, the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition and Hadi al-Ameri’s Fateh Coalition.

Al-Sadr posted a tweet on Monday expressing a willingness to work with a number of parties – among those he named were the Shia-aligned al-Hikma bloc, the Sunni al-Wataniya bloc, and newly established Kurdish parties.

For its part, Iran publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern, which has led many observers to believe that Tehran is likely to try and isolate or fragment al-Sadr’s power.

“Iran will try to work on the fact that Sadr’s coalition includes communists which is a weakness if Iran tempts them away from the alliance, reducing his [al-Sadr’s alliance] majority,” said Abdulrazaq.

For other analysts, however, al-Sadr’s victory may not upset Iranian influence over Baghdad as much as it will the US’ influence.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, Muqtada al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries. [AFP]

According to Mahan Abedin, an expert on Iranian politics: “On balance, Tehran is not displeased [with the results]. It wanted Abadi – who Iran perceives as America’s man – weakened, and they got that.”

Unlike al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shia majority into power.

“Also, a corollary is the relative rehabilitation of [former Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki who is now back in the fold,” added Abedin.

Al-Maliki, who led Iraq between 2006 and 2014 and headed the State of Law Coalition for the 2018 election, was a staunch ally of Iran. For years, the Iraqi army and police under al-Maliki acted as a sectarian militia against the country’s Sunni minority.

“Another key Iranian objective is to defeat or undermine US plans. Both Sadr and Fateh [a pro-Iran coalition led by Hadi al-Ameri and which came in second in the election] are useful for that.

“These elections have [therefore] reinforced the dominion of the Shia state in Iraq, [so] in terms of influence and operations, Iran, as always, is the key power broker,” explained Abedin.

But for the US, which sent US presidential envoy Brett McGurk to Erbil following the vote, the situation might be a little more tricky.

Al-Sadr has been a staunch opponent of the US. He spearheaded a number of political movements in Iraq that directed attacks on US troops in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

He set up the Mahdi Army, which posed such a threat to US forces that they were instructed to kill or capture him.

Although US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in an interview on Tuesday that the US would respect and “stand with the Iraqi people’s decisions”, the US had hoped al-Abadi would win another term in office.

US acceptance of the results, according to al-Haddad, therefore depends on the kind of government that will be formed.

 

“It [al-Sadr’s victory] is not the best scenario for the US. The US will push for Abadi’s premiership, and if Sairoon form a coalition with Abadi’s Nasr Coalition and Abadi heads the next government, that would work well for the US.”

Iran’s Deadly Nuclear Deal with Obama

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at the Hussayniyeh of Imam Khomeini in Tehran, Iran, August 13, 2018.Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has admitted he made a mistake in allowing the country’s foreign minister to speak to his U.S. counterpart during negotiations that led to a 2015 international nuclear agreement.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted when the pact with world powers came into force in 2016, but the expected level of foreign investment to help revive the economy has never materialized. Then this May President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement and is now reimposing U.S. sanctions in stages.

Khamenei, who rarely admits in public to making errors, said he had done just that over the nuclear talks. “With the issue of the nuclear negotiations, I made a mistake in permitting our foreign minister to speak with them. It was a loss for us,” he said.

The comments made by Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, were tweeted on Wednesday by the Khat-e Hezbollah newspaper, a weekly affiliated with his official website.

Khamenei made the remarks on Monday, but the newspaper said it was now quoting them due to inaccurate accounts published previously by other media.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiated the deal with counterparts from six powers, including then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Tehran undertook to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from the international sanctions which have been throttling its economy.

New U.S. sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States. Washington had said Tehran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal.

Iranian officials, from Khamenei down, have rejected the offer. Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday that the United States is trying to make Tehran surrender through the imposition of sanctions.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri speaks during a news conference in Najaf, south of Baghdad, February 18, 2015. Alaa Al-Marjani/REUTERS

“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”

The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.

Few U.S. companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States. “We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.

“America itself took actions which destroyed the conditions for negotiation,” Rouhani also said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “There were conditions for negotiation and we were negotiating. They destroyed the bridge themselves,” he said. “If you’re telling the truth then come now and build the bridge again.”

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.

Rouhani said the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.

Columbia University Warns Of Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study

A study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.

Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.

The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”

Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.

One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.

The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.

“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”

The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.

Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”

The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.

The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.

Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.

“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”

New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:

Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.

Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.

New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.

Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.

The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.

Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.

Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.

In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.

The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Rev 6:12)

Earthquakes Can Happen in More Places Than You Think

By Simon Worrall

PUBLISHED AUGUST 26, 2017

Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

There are other places around the country that are also well overdue for an earthquake. New York City has historically had a moderate earthquake approximately every 100 years. If that is to be trusted, any moment now there will be another one, which will be devastating for that city.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

India’s Nuclear King Dies (Revelation 8)

NEW DELHI — Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian prime minister who oversaw nuclear tests that ushered in a new arms race in South Asia starting in the late 1990s, died Aug. 16 at a hospital in New Delhi. He was 93.The former prime minister had a stroke in 2009 that severely affected his ability to speak. He was admitted to the hospital in June after his health worsened, doctors said.A member of Parliament for five decades, Mr. Vajpayee was sworn in three times to the country’s top elected executive office, and he forged and held together a fragile federal coalition of disparate political parties during his tenure.

From 1999 to 2004, he headed India’s first non-Congress party government that lasted a full five-year term. This was a significant achievement in a country where the Indian National Congress party — the party of the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru — had dominated politics since independence from Britain in 1947.

Weeks into his second stint as prime minister, Mr. Vajpayee shocked the world in May 1998 with five underground nuclear tests, prompting international sanctions, rattling neighbors and setting off an arms race with archrival Pakistan.

India first conducted a test in 1974 but had long maintained that its nuclear program was meant for peaceful purposes. The new tests established India as an overt nuclear-weapon state.

Students from an art school place flower petals around a painting of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Mumbai on Thursday. Vajpayee died Thursday at age 93. (Rajanish Kakade/AP)

“We will not use these weapons against anybody. But to defend ourselves, if the need arises, we will not hesitate,” Mr. Vajpayee said in a speech to his supporters at the time.

Pakistan followed with its own nuclear tests, prompting fears from analysts who began describing the Indian subcontinent as the world’s likeliest nuclear flash point. Domestically, the tests made Mr. Vajpayee’s party immensely popular and bolstered its image of being tough on national security.

In the immediate aftermath of the testing, President Bill Clinton denounced India for undermining the stability of South Asia and directly challenging “the firm international consensus to stop nuclear proliferation.”

But Mr. Vajpayee worked discreet diplomacy behind closed doors and set in motion a friendly dialogue with Clinton, who went to India in 2000, the first visit by a U.S. president to the country in more than two decades.

Mr. Vajpayee, known as an avuncular politician, was credited with helping bring mainstream acceptance to his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The party had struggled for many years before gaining political prominence in the 1990s by carefully nurturing religious pride and projecting the Congress party as being softer on the country’s Muslim minority group.

The BJP became the single-largest party in the elections in 1996 and 1998 but did not win in enough voting districts to form a majority in the lower house of Parliament. As a result, Mr. Vajpayee’s government in 1996 lasted just 13 days, and his second term as prime minister lasted 13 months in 1998 and 1999.

But later, it was Mr. Vajpayee’s personal charisma and moderate image that helped the BJP stitch together a broad-based coalition of smaller, disparate regional parties. Between 1999 and 2004, he deftly managed the unwieldy coalition government of fractious partners.

He deployed similar skills to begin a new peace process with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, and traveled to Lahore in northeastern Pakistan by bus in February 1999. But the effort was undermined three months later when the Pakistani army and separatist militants launched an offensive in the Kargil mountains of Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by the two South Asian neighbors.

About 1,200 troops from both countries were said to have died in the short conflict; Sharif would later say that up to 4,000 Pakistanis died in the fighting.

Mr. Vajpayee went on to parlay the Kargil events into victory at the polls, winning another term in October 1999 general elections.

Sharif was soon removed in a military coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan sank into political instability. While condemning the coup, Mr. Vajpayee continued to negotiate with Islamabad. This resulted in a 2001 peace summit in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, but it failed to get the peace process moving.

The biggest blot on his term was the February 2002 religious rioting between Hindus and Muslims in the western state of Gujarat. A government estimate said 1,024 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The government in Gujarat was then headed by the Hindu nationalist hard-liner Narendra Modi — a future prime minister who at that time was widely accused of not doing enough to stop the attacks on Muslims by Hindu mobs. The reprisal violence erupted after some Muslims set fire to a train coach, killing 59 Hindus.

At a news conference, Mr. Vajpayee told Modi to carry out the “duty of the ruler,” which was widely interpreted by many as a public rebuke. More than a decade later, Modi overcame the taint of that episode and was swept to power in the 2014 general election.

Mr. Vajpayee continued privatizing and reshaping the economy during his third term, a process set in motion in 1991 by the previous Congress party government. In 2004, the BJP campaigned on his economic accomplishments, coining the slogan “India Shining.”

But the voters apparently did not feel as prosperous as the BJP thought they were, and Mr. Vajpayee was dislodged. He retired from active politics the next year.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born in the central Indian city of Gwalior on Dec. 25, 1924. His father was a schoolteacher and Hindu scholar.

As a teenager, he was drawn to the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a controversial group that was banned briefly after a former member assassinated the Indian independence-movement leader Mohandas Gandhi in 1948. Over the years, Mr. Vajpayee brought back to Hindu nationalists some of the respectability they had lost since Gandhi’s assassination.

After graduating from what was then called Victoria College in Gwalior, Mr. Vajpayee earned a master’s degree in political science from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Kanpur. He dropped out of law school to edit an RSS magazine.

In 1951, Mr. Vajpayee joined the newly formed political party called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP. Later, he became the party’s leader and began a long parliamentary career. He served as foreign minister in the late 1970s in a coalition government. Under Mr. Vajpayee’s leadership, the old Bharatiya Jana Sangh was reborn as the BJP in 1980.

An orator who peppered his speeches with wit and lines from his own poems, Mr. Vajpayee was viewed more as a kind of philosopher-king and less as a hard-nosed politician.

Mr. Vajpayee, who never married, was known to like good meat and expensive whiskey, and he made several public denials over charges of eating beef, a serious allegation against a Hindu leader.

The Formation of the Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

 

Abbas explores the ideological and political world of Abdul Qadeer Khan, commonly known as A. Q. Khan, the brilliant engineer who guided the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and then sold the technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Khan was a fervent patriot, a Muslim nationalist, an anti-Semite, an anti-American, and an overweening egoist. He proliferated nuclear technology both to spread his ideology and to satisfy his intense greed. Islamabad eventually labeled him a rogue proliferator, but along the way, he had many enablers. In the 1950s, the U.S. Atoms for Peace program built the foundation for Pakistan’s nuclear establishment. Western universities trained the scientists who later joined Khan’s team. European companies supplied him with components. Pakistani military and political leaders collaborated with Khan or turned a blind eye to his activities. Even today, Khan remains a national hero in Pakistan and lives under the protection of the government. Abbas’ diligent scrutiny of public sources and his intimate knowledge of Pakistani politics make this the most authoritative study yet written of Khan’s complicated story.

Antichrist Assumes Leadership Roles

Muqtada al-Sadr and the new Iraqi government

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has had a fairly successful track record up to this point despite some serious issues the country has faced during his time in office. Muqtada al-Sadr’s spokesman, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, claims that Abadi’s predecessor Nouri al-Maliki stands no chance whatsoever though. Maliki’s failures led to the rise of the Islamic State through his severe transgressions against the Sunni Muslims of Iraq. Obeidi added that no new Iraqi government could be organized in Baghdad without the inclusion of the Kurdish minority residing in the country’s northern reaches though.

In an interview with local media reporters, Obeidi stated that,

The main differences are between Sairoon and the State of Law coalition, and it’s all an accumulation of past events, including their prime ministers not having a clear agenda or vision during the twelve years they’ve been in power. During the term of Nouri al-Maliki in particular, when there was an enormous budget nothing was done and the budget wasn’t used properly.”

Muqtada al-Sadr‘s Sayirun bloc, also known as the victory coalition, garnered the majority of parliamentary votes this past May election; in total, they obtained 54 seats within the house. Obeidi went on to explain that the delay in the new government’s formation was “technical because the federal court hasn’t up to this point formally agreed on the final results of the elections and that has to do with the possibility of fraud and vote rigging.”

Obeidi continued by saying that Sayirun considers Prime Minister Abadi a more favorable option for the Victory Coalition. He said, “To be honest the Nasr bloc of Abadi is different, and we believe Abadi had a better performance. So his Nasr could be part of the bigger alliance that could be formed. Maliki stands no chance at all to be chosen as prime minister by us.” Despite this, he added that, “It won’t be Sayirun alone that would choose who becomes prime minister. It’d be a collective decision by all the members of the coalition.”

Sayirun and Muqtada al-Sadr admit that the Kurdish parliament members cannot be excluded in the negotiations pertaining to the new government. Obeidi spoke to this, saying that,

The Kurds are an essential part of Iraqi politics and therefore no government could be formed without regard to the influential role of the Kurds. Mr. Sadr himself has stressed this at every turn and when he went to Baghdad among those he met with Kurdish delegations. There is also one thing, the Kurds themselves haven’t yet made up their minds as to whether they will come to Baghdad as one bloc or two in order to present their demands to the new government.”

Featured image: In this photo provided by the Iraqi government, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, left, meets with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, early Sunday, May 20, 2018. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, says the next government will be “inclusive.” The May 12 vote did not produce a single bloc with a majority, raising the prospect of weeks or even months of negotiations to agree on a government. | Iraqi Government via AP

A Nuclear Disaster Awaits Indian Point Plant at the Sixth Seal

PIPELINEAIM gas pipeline opponents lose legal challenge, may appeal

Thomas C. Zambito, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon spoke to students about their proximity to the Algonquin natural gas pipeline. She then shared her thoughts. Seth Harrison, sharriso@lohud.com

Opponents of the AIM pipeline expansion say they may refocus their legal challenges on the next phase of the project

While a federal appeals court has rejected a pivotal challenge to the expansion of a natural gas pipeline near the Indian Point nuclear power plant, opponents say they’re not done trying to get the courts to block the project.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a July 27 decision, sided with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in turning back a legal challenge to the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline expansion.

The Hudson Valley environmental group Riverkeeper claimed the installation of 2,159 feet of natural gas pipeline across from Indian Point posed a serious threat to public safety, particularly if the pipeline ruptured.

Riverkeeper spokesman Cliff Weathers said a decision to appeal has not been made yet.

But Courtney Williams, who heads the grassroots group SAPE (Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion), said the opposition may focus its future legal challenges on the next phase of the expansion, known as the Atlantic Bridge Project.

“We’re still in discussions with Riverkeeper to determine whether we will appeal this portion of the decision,” Williams said. “But the legal challenge to Atlantic Bridge is already underway.”

Another challenge coming

SAPE joined Riverkeeper, the City of Boston and others in challenging FERC’s decision-making process.

Opponents argued that FERC should have considered the environmental impacts of all three phases of the expansion, including the Atlantic Bridge Project, as one. But the appeals court sided with FERC. “We find no basis to set aside the Commission’s order on those grounds,” the appeals court wrote.

The Atlantic Bridge Project is an extension of the Algonquin pipeline that runs through Yorktown and Somers in northern Westchester before heading into Putnam County and Connecticut.

It is part of a $972 million expansion that will make it possible for the pipeline’s current owner, Enbridge Energy Partners, to deliver natural gas to New England from Pennsylvania, by way of a pipeline that cuts through New Jersey and New York.

The project has impacted several Hudson Valley towns in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties and touched off a number of public demonstrations. In 2016, several protesters were arrested after locking themselves inside a section of pipeline in Verplanck while it was being readied to be installed under the Hudson River.

SAPE has staged protests outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New Castle home, urging the governor to shut down the pipeline. And last month at a rally in Peekskill, Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s opponent in the September Democratic primary, accused the governor of moving too slowly to address the opposition’s concerns.

In June, state officials sent a letter to FERC, urging the commission to re-evaluate its decision allowing the pipeline near Indian Point.

NRC signs off on plan

The appeals court ruling said FERC’s decision allowing the pipeline near Indian Point was supported by an analysis by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which the commission found “persuasive.”

NRC’s review determined that Indian Point’s two reactors could safely operate or temporarily shut down if a gas line ruptured near the plant.

FERC’s 2015 ruling credited NRC’s expertise in assessing safety threats to nuclear facilities.

“We see no basis to reject the Commission’s to do so,” the appeals court wrote.

The NRC said it could re-evaluate its decision after Indian Point’s owner, Louisiana-based Entergy, submits a plan for how the plant will be dismantled. Entergy has plans to shut down the Buchanan plant by 2021.

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From The USA TODAY NETWORK

The Nuclear Meltdown at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

INDIAN POINT 

NYS agencies urge more scrutiny of Algonquin pipeline at Indian Point

Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

A group of residents opposed to the Algonquin gas pipeline project meet at Somers Intermediate School Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Peter Carr/The Journal News

State asks Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for more steps ‘to minimize risk and protect public safety’ near the Buchanan plant

Several New York state agencies are urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to institute additional safety measures on the Algonquin Pipeline portions near the Indian Point nuclear reactor.

In a letter to the commission, officials from the state health, public safety, environmental conservation and homeland security agencies called for “additional scrutiny and monitoring” to minimize risks near the Buchanan plant.

“While the probability of pipeline incidents is low, the proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant makes the potential consequences of such an event very significant,” the state agencies said in a joint statement. “Additional scrutiny and monitoring to better understand and reduce risks associated with the Algonquin pipelines is warranted.”

Pipeline owner Enbridge is in the midst of expanding the half-century old natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania, through Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, and north into New England.

Work done so far includes a new section through Stony Point, under the Hudson River, into Verplanck and near the Indian Point Energy Center.

The plan has sparked protests throughout the pipe’s path.

On Friday, the state agencies asked the federal commission for additional safety measures near the Indian Point property, including:

• Ensure that Enbridge will not be allowed to send additional natural gas at higher pressure through the pipeline to meet high demand for gas in the Northeast.

• The commission should work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine Entergy Corp.’s decommission plan for Indian Point “to determine potential impacts to the original Algonquin pipelines.”

The Accidental Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

How Russia, China or America Could Accidentally Start a Nuclear War

by Michael Peck

What happens when you use the same satellites to control nuclear forces as well as conventional troops?

Accidental nuclear war, that’s what could happen.

That’s the warning by a Washington think tank, which argues that the U.S. is inviting nuclear war by using the same command and communications systems to oversee both nuclear and conventional forces. But such “dual use” systems risk an inadvertent nuclear war, because an attack on non-nuclear assets, such as satellites or radars, could be perceived as an attempt to cripple America’s nuclear deterrent.

The Trump administration’s draft nuclear policy already states that cyberattacks against America, or attacks on U.S. satellites, could constitute a strategic threat that merits a nuclear response. But this raises a problem called “nuclear entanglement,” where the traditionally bright lines between nuclear and non-nuclear systems become blurred.

In a study earlier this year , the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace pointed out that Russia and China were guilty of entanglement. For example, Russia keeps nuclear submarines and bombers at the same bases as conventional ships and planes: thus a strike by conventional U.S. forces against conventional Russian forces — the sort of operation common in World War II — could be mistaken by Russia as an American strike on its nuclear forces, triggering Russian nuclear retaliation. China plans to attack American satellites to disable U.S. command systems and smart weapons that rely on satellite guidance, because China believes this to be a part of conventional warfare — despite the Trump administration declaring otherwise.

But a new Carnegie study says the U.S. is making the same mistake. “Starting in the last decade of the Cold War, the United States has increased reliance on dual-use systems by assigning nonnuclear roles to C3I assets that used to be employed solely for nuclear operations,” writes James Acton, co-director of Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program. “Until the mid-1980s, for example, U.S. early-warning satellites were used exclusively for detecting the launch of nuclear-armed missiles. Today, they enable a variety of nonnuclear missions by, for example, providing cuing information for missile defenses involved in intercepting conventional ballistic missiles.”

The U.S. has also scrapped its Cold War land-based communications systems for controlling nuclear forces. Which means that satellites have become virtually the only means for nuclear command and control, and those precious satellites are also handling non-nuclear communications.

Even as cyberwarfare and anti-satellite weapons have emerged as major threats, U.S. satellite systems have become less redundant. In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. had two satellite-based communication systems for nuclear weapons. “Today, the United States is in the process of deploying just four Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites that will be the nation’s sole space-based system for transmitting nuclear employment orders once legacy Milstar satellites have been retired,” writes Acton. Similarly, one of two radio networks for communicating with nuclear missile submarines has been shut down.

Acton explores several scenarios where the U.S. could overreact. “Russia might attack ground-based or space-based U.S. early-warning assets to defeat European missile defenses that were proving effective in intercepting its nonnuclear missiles,” he writes. “Washington might see such attacks, however, as preparations to ensure that limited nuclear strikes by Russia could penetrate the United States’ homeland missile defenses.”

The U.S. fears that Russia could launch limited nuclear strikes to paint America into a corner, where it must either back down or risk escalating into full nuclear war. But Russia could attack dual-use communications systems with the goal of disrupting the operations of U.S. conventional forces, which the U.S. might perceive as an attempt to  cripple U.S. nuclear communications.

These issues apply to a lesser extent to China, which knows (and the U.S. knows that China knows) that a Chinese first strike wouldn’t be powerful enough to prevent massive American retaliation. Still, a Chinese attack on, say, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar system could be taken as the prelude to a Chinese nuclear strike.

Acton does point out that the U.S. reaction will depend to some extent on context, such as whether Russia has placed its nuclear forces on alert. But this is a slender reed on which to avoid nuclear destruction.

Untangling nuclear entanglement will not be easy. Russia, China and the U.S. are likely to balk at the cost of separating their nuclear and non-nuclear command and control systems and facilities. Nor are they like to accept limits on weapons that threaten an opponent’s command and control systems, even if those systems have a nuclear function.

Acton does suggest a few mild measures to mitigate the problem, such as more resilient command and control systems, or small space-based sensors useful for detecting ICBM launches, but not for conventional warfare.