The Military Jenius of Donald J Trump

Image result for iran warPresident Trump has backed himself into a dangerous corner on Iran

This appeared in Saturday’s Washington Post.

President Donald Trump has recklessly navigated himself into a corner in the Persian Gulf. Though he campaigned against Middle East wars and has repeatedly said he does not want one with Iran, Trump has ordered a series of provocative actions toward the Islamic republic that, on Thursday, produced the entirely predictable images of oil tankers burning near the Strait of Hormuz – and the very real danger of escalation toward armed conflict.

Trump blames Iran for the attacks, which U.S. officials say involved attaching underwater mines to the ships; the U.S. military released video appearing to show an Iranian craft removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels. In fervently denying responsibility, the Iranian government is taking advantage of the shattered credibility of a U.S. president who has been caught in thousands of lies. But it appears likely that Tehran was responsible for the attack and for another strike against ships in the Gulf of Oman last month; the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened just such action in the past.

Iran is responsible for aggression across the Middle East, against which the United States ought to push back. But the ship attacks were the foreseeable result of Trump’s campaign to apply „maximum pressure“ on the Islamic republic without any accompanying diplomacy. After unwisely withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Tehran struck by the Obama administration, which had restrained Iran’s most dangerous threat to the United States, Trump ratcheted up sanctions – including, in April, a move to shut down Iran’s remaining oil exports.

The only peaceful avenue that Trump offered out of this economic vise was the acceptance by the Khamenei regime of a dozen U.S. dictates that would completely reverse its foreign policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who laid out the demands, himself conceded they would not lead to any diplomatic agreement; instead, Pompeo speculated, „what can change is, the people can change the government.“ Under these circumstances, it’s no surprise that Iran would respond with actions aimed at punishing the United States – such as disrupting the vital oil trade through the Persian Gulf – while avoiding the direct attacks on Americans that might provide the White House with a casus belli.

Trump sounds sincere when he says he doesn’t want a war, but he doesn’t have an easy way out of the crisis he has created. Khamenei on Thursday rejected negotiations with the United States, prompting the president, who had repeatedly said he wanted such talks, to rule them out himself on Twitter. The administration will seek to enlist European allies to join it in confronting Iran over the ship attacks, but the Europeans will inevitably be wary, given that Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reapplied sanctions over their strong objections. Meanwhile, barring another escalation by Iran, Congress may not support U.S. military action.

The administration is talking about steps short of that, such as providing U.S. naval protection to ships transiting the gulf. But Iran will likely continue to seek ways to inflict pain on the United States and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. If Trump genuinely wishes to avoid further escalation, he should pursue a credible diplomatic outreach to Iran, perhaps in concert with the Europeans – and he should set goals that are achievable. De- escalation by both sides would be a good start.

Preparing for War with Iran

Image result for iran warThe growing risk of armed conflict

Iran is back in the eye of the storm. Perhaps, this time Iran is more worried that a military action, long threatened by the US, may materialize. Iran is not alone in entertaining the apprehension.

Three summits held recently in Saudi Arabia and the resolutions adopted there flashed unnerving signals that the regional governments led by Saudi Arabia could take unprecedented risks to chastise Iran. These governments welcomed US sanctions on Tehran to restrain Iranian influence in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. None of the regional governments wants Iran to make progress towards nuclear weapons acquisition. This maybe fine as Iran itself has denied that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. The alliance, however, also wants to isolate Iran diplomatically and bleed it economically. Iran is losing patience over denial to sell its oil. It is feared that it might embark upon some reckless action. It has demonstrated its ability to closely monitor activity on American aircraft carrier in the Gulf. Saner voices from Europe managed to sober the saber-rattling President Trump last month. He then tweeted that the US did not want a regime change in Iran. The tweet was not enough to reassure Iran of his sincerity. His penchant for high-strung statements can turn the situation ugly and dangerous, to say the least, because of latest “suspected attacks” on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the sabotage of oil tankers in the same area and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities earlier.

The oil supply through Strait of Hormuz is no longer safe. The US and its allies in Gulf strongly believe that Iran is behind the attacks. Such incidents may help the hawks in the US administration prevail.The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted after the attack against the tankers, calling it ” a worrying development and a dangerous escalation.” So, it may be safe to argue that a storm is gathering, not for Iran alone. Its devastation will be witnessed beyond the region. The world economy may suffer massively if the current standoff prolongs. The latest discomforting attack on oil tanks came on the heels of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Iran (June 11-12). There was an expectation that the visit would help ease the military stalemate in the region, serve as an effective medium to communicate messages from Iranian to US leadership and vice versa.

The Iranian leadership understood the stakes involved in the visit- first by a Japanese prime mister since 1978. Reuters claimed that the Iranian president pressed Abe to break with US economic sanctions on Tehran, triggered by Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 international deal to cap Iran’s nuclear programme. The challenge for Abe was indeed formidable. He not only aspired to use his good relations with Trump to defuse the crisis but also to secure uninterrupted oil supply from Iran. De-escalation is crucial for both Japan and Iran; Japan gets oil from Iran (5 per cent of Japan’s overall oil imports) and Iran’s economy hugely depends on oil sale.

The reduction in oil production has negatively impacted the economies of net oil importing countries. Japan is not alone in seeking a negotiated solution. European countries have been most vocal in trying to keep intact the nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal

President Trump must have encouraged Abe in his peace mission during his visit last month. Media then reported President Donald Trump having welcomed Abe’s help in dealing with Iran. Trump is aware of the complications and the high risk involved in the continued tensions and was forced to offer talks. The offer failed to elicit a positive response, as Iran is not ready to enhance the scope of the 2015 agreement.

While Tokyo disagrees with the US decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, Abe indicated concerns about Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region. “It is essential that Iran plays a constructive role in building solid peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

No doubt, peace and stability in the Middle East is indispensable not only for this region but for global prosperity. The reduction in oil production has negatively impacted the economies of net oil importing countries. Japan is not alone in seeking a negotiated solution. European countries have been most vocal in trying to keep intact the nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal. Germany’s foreign minister has visited Tehran to prevent possible scrapping of the deal by Tehran. According to the Iranian foreign minister who visited China, Japan, India, Pakistan in April only Russia and China had helped his country keep the nuclear deal going, and accused other parties to the agreement of letting Tehran down. In fact, no one wants that Iran be given any excuse to implement its threat of abandoning any of the terms of the agreed nuclear deal. Hence the US policy towards Iran continues to unnerve the US allies. Trump has declared the deal flawed and called for talks to negotiate a new deal. To achieve this goal he has intensified the US sanctions against Iran from the start of May, ordering all countries and firms to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

With Israel and Saudi Arabia extending full support to Trump’s Iran policy, the prospects of an unintended armed conflict cannot be brushed aside. Trump is in a quandary; he cannot afford to have Iran resume its enrichment of uranium beyond the low fissile purity allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal, nor can he force European parties to the deal abandon the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran is also not in a happy or comfortable position. Its economy is under severe strain, evoking public anger and unrest. The sense of despair gripping Iran is bound to dampen the little hope the furry of diplomatic activity generated in last three weeks. The Saudi vows to prevent oil crash by increasing oil production stand little chance to reassure the energy-starved countries. While major powers have locked horns over trade issues, the world cannot sustain another armed conflict, aggravating the agony caused by US invasion of Iraq, Libya and Syria. Diplomacy needs to be given priority both in Washington and Tehran.

The writer is a former ambassador and an adviser to the CRSS, an independent think tank in Islamabad

Who Is Really Escalating This Conflict?

Japanese ship owner contradicts U.S. account of how tanker was attacked

Middle East

What you need to know about the video the U.S. Central Command said shows Iran removing a mine from a tanker that was targeted on June 13. (REF:leej3/The Washington Post)

June 14, 2019 at 1:20 PM EDT

TOKYO — The owner of a Japanese tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman offered a different account Friday of the nature of the attack than that provided by the United States.

Yutaka Katada, president of the Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, said the Filipino crew of the Kokuka Courageous tanker thought their vessel was hit by flying objects rather than a mine.

“The crew are saying it was hit with a flying object. They say something came flying toward them, then there was an explosion, then there was a hole in the vessel,” he told reporters. “Then some crew witnessed a second shot.”

The United States said the tanker was attacked by limpet mines and released a video that it said showed men aboard an Iranian boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships.

But Katada offered an alternative version of how the events unfolded.

“To put a bomb on the side is not something we are thinking,” he said. “If it’s between an explosion and a penetrating bullet, I have a feeling it is a penetrating bullet. If it was an explosion, there would be damage in different places, but this is just an assumption or a guess.”

The Kokuka Courageous, one of two ships that were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, is displayed during a news conference by the ship owner Kokuka Sangyo Ltd. at the company office in Tokyo on June 13. (Kyodo Kyodo/Reuters)

Trump rejects Iran’s denials that it attacked tankers, citing video released by Central Command

On Thursday, company officials said the vessel, which had been carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, was first hit by what appeared to be an artillery shell toward the stern, causing a fire in the engine room that crew members were able to extinguish.

Three hours later, the ship was again attacked on the same side in the center of the hull, at which point the captain felt it was no longer safe and ordered the crew to take to the life boats, officials said.

“When the shell hit, it was above the water surface by quite a lot,” Katada said Friday. “Because of that, there is no doubt that it wasn’t a torpedo.”

One crew member was injured and was later treated by the U.S. military, he added.

There have been two suspected attacks on five ships in the Persian Gulf in the last month. These incidents mark a serious escalation in one of the world’s most important waterways for oil. (REF:leej3/The Washington Post)

Company officials said Thursday that the ship was hit on the port side, but photos released by the United States showed damage and a suspected mine on the starboard side.

The ship’s crew saw an Iranian military vessel in the vicinity Thursday night Japan time, Katada said, according to Reuters news agency.

Declassified intelligence from the Defense Department details several tense moments when the captains of two rescue ships were surrounded by Iranian patrol boats whose captains asked for the rescued crew members to be handed over.

The last time a ‘Tanker War’ broke out in the Persian Gulf, it lasted for years

According to the account, the Hyundai Dubai oil tanker rescued the seamen of a Norwegian ship, the Front Altair, that also came under attack Thursday, but it was soon surrounded by Iranian military vessels.

The ship’s captain “felt like he had no choice but to comply with Iranian demands,” so the crew members were transferred to the Iranian vessels and taken to Iran, this account said.

The document said that after the explosion aboard the Kokuka Courageous, a Dutch ship answered its distress call and rescued the crew.

An Iranian navy ship raced to the rescue ship, even as the U.S. Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge was nearing, and asked to take the Kokuka Courageous crew aboard “so they could transfer personnel and render assistance to the crew,” the U.S. account said.

The owner of the Japanese tanker instructed the crew not to get on the Iranian ship, so they boarded the Bainbridge instead, the Pentagon report said.

Simon Denyer

Simon Denyer is The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, covering Japan and the Koreas. He previously worked as The Post’s bureau chief in Beijing and New Delhi; as a Reuters bureau chief in Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad; and a Reuters correspondent in Nairobi, New York and London. Follow

Carol Morello

Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department. She previously wrote about demographics and the census. She has worked at The Post since 2000. Before that, she was a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA Today. Follow

49 Arabs Shot Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Thousands of Arabs riot along Gaza border

Some 6,500 Palestinian Arabs confront IDF soldiers along Gaza border. 49 Arabs reportedly injured by IDF gunfire during the riots.

Some 6,500 Palestinian Arabs demonstrated on Friday near the Gaza border fence and confronted IDF soldiers.

According to the Hamas-run “health ministry” in Gaza, 49 Arabs were injured by IDF gunfire during the riots.

Meanwhile on Friday, seven fires broke out as a result of incendiary balloons fired from Gaza toward southern Israel. Firefighters extinguished three fires in the Eshkol Regional Council and four fires in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

The incidents come in the wake of the rocket fire from Gaza toward Sderot on Thursday evening and the subsequent IDF air strike on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Following the tension in the Gaza envelope, the IDF will reinforce the Iron Dome system in the south.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

India vs. Pakistan: The Two Nations That WILL Start a Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

India vs. Pakistan: The Two Nations That Might Start a Nuclear War?

In Pakistan in February 2000, President General Pervez Musharraf, who was also the army chief, established the Strategic Plan Division in the National Command Authority, appointing Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai as its director general. In October 2001, Kidwai offered an outline of the country’s updated nuclear doctrine in relation to its far more militarily and economically powerful neighbor, saying, “It is well known that Pakistan does not have a ‘no-first-use policy.’”

It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors —lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.

Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.

(This article by Dilip Hiro originally appearedat War is Boring in 2016.)

When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.

In the nuclear standoff between the two neighbors, the stakes are constantly rising as Aizaz Chaudhry, the highest bureaucrat in Pakistan’s foreign ministry, recently made clear. The deployment of tactical nukes, he explained, was meant to act as a form of “deterrence,” given India’s “Cold Start” military doctrine — a reputed contingency plan aimed at punishing Pakistan in a major way for any unacceptable provocations like a mass-casualty terrorist strike against India.

New Delhi refuses to acknowledge the existence of Cold Start. Its denials are hollow. As early as 2004, it was discussing this doctrine, which involved the formation of eight division-size Integrated Battle Groups. These were to consist of infantry, artillery, armor and air support, and each would be able to operate independently on the battlefield. In the case of major terrorist attacks by any Pakistan-based group, these IBGs would evidently respond by rapidly penetrating Pakistani territory at unexpected points along the border and advancing no more than 30 miles inland, disrupting military command and control networks while endeavoring to stay away from locations likely to trigger nuclear retaliation.

In other words, India has long been planning to respond to major terror attacks with a swift and devastating conventional military action that would inflict only limited damage and so — in a best-case scenario — deny Pakistan justification for a nuclear response.

Islamabad, in turn, has been planning ways to deter the Indians from implementing a Cold-Start-style blitzkrieg on its territory. After much internal debate, its top officials opted for tactical nukes. In 2011, the Pakistanis tested one successfully. Since then, according to Rajesh Rajagopalan, the New Delhi-based co-author of Nuclear South Asia: Keywords and Concepts, Pakistan seems to have been assembling four to five of these annually.

All of this has been happening in the context of populations that view each other unfavorably. A typical survey in this period by the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Pakistanis had an unfavorable view of India, with 57 percent considering it as a serious threat, while on the other side 59 percent of Indians saw Pakistan in an unfavorable light.

This is the background against which Indian leaders have said that a tactical nuclear attack on their forces, even on Pakistani territory, would be treated as a full-scale nuclear attack on India, and that they reserved the right to respond accordingly. Since India does not have tactical nukes, it could only retaliate with far more devastating strategic nuclear arms, possibly targeting Pakistani cities.

According to a 2002 estimate by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, a worst-case scenario in an Indo-Pakistani nuclear war could result in eight to 12 million fatalities initially, followed by many millions later from radiation poisoning. More recent studies have shown that up to a billion people worldwide might be put in danger of famine and starvation by the smoke and soot thrown into the troposphere in a major nuclear exchange in South Asia. The resulting “nuclear winter” and ensuing crop loss would functionally add up to a slowly developing global nuclear holocaust.

Last November, to reduce the chances of such a catastrophic exchange happening, senior Obama administration officials met in Washington with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif — the final arbiter of that country’s national security policies — and urged him to stop the production of tactical nuclear arms. In return, they offered a pledge to end Islamabad’s pariah status in the nuclear field by supporting its entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group to which India already belongs. Although no formal communiqué was issued after Sharif’s trip, it became widely known that he had rejected the offer.

This failure was implicit in the testimony that DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart gave to the Armed Services Committee this February. “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons continue to grow,” he said. “We are concerned that this growth, as well as the evolving doctrine associated with tactical [nuclear] weapons, increases the risk of an incident or accident.”

Strategic nuclear warheads

Since that DIA estimate of human fatalities in a South Asian nuclear war, the strategic nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan have continued to grow. In January 2016, according to a U.S. congressional report, Pakistan’s arsenal probably consisted of 110 to 130 nuclear warheads. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India has 90 to 110 of these.

China, the other regional actor, has approximately 260 warheads.

As the 1990s ended, with both India and Pakistan testing their new weaponry, their governments made public their nuclear doctrines. The National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, for example, stated in August 1999 that “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.”

India’s foreign minister explained at the time that the “minimum credible deterrence” mentioned in the doctrine was a question of “adequacy,” not numbers of warheads. In subsequent years, however, that yardstick of “minimum credible deterrence” has been regularly recalibrated as India’s policymakers went on to commit themselves to upgrade the country’s nuclear arms program with a new generation of more powerful hydrogen bombs designed to be city-busters.

In Pakistan in February 2000, President General Pervez Musharraf, who was also the army chief, established the Strategic Plan Division in the National Command Authority, appointing Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai as its director general. In October 2001, Kidwai offered an outline of the country’s updated nuclear doctrine in relation to its far more militarily and economically powerful neighbor, saying, “It is well known that Pakistan does not have a ‘no-first-use policy.’”

He then laid out the “thresholds” for the use of nukes. The country’s nuclear weapons, he pointed out, were aimed solely at India and would be available for use not just in response to a nuclear attack from that country, but should it conquer a large part of Pakistan’s territory (the space threshold), or destroy a significant part of its land or air forces (the military threshold), or start to strangle Pakistan economically (the economic threshold), or politically destabilize the country through large-scale internal subversion (the domestic destabilization threshold).

Of these, the space threshold was the most likely trigger. New Delhi as well as Washington speculated as to where the red line for this threshold might lie, though there was no unanimity among defense experts. Many surmised that it would be the impending loss of Lahore, the capital of Punjab, only 15 miles from the Indian border. Others put the red line at Pakistan’s sprawling Indus River basin.

A U.S.-Iran War WILL Be All Sorts of Awful

A U.S.-Iran War Would Be All Sorts of Awful

War with Iran is no joke. Critics of a deal with Iran should not treat it like one. A breakdown in negotiations will have serious repercussions for the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. That being the case, lawmakers should be more careful when threatening to use U.S. military force.

Iran hawks are playing with fire. We are close to a nuclear deal with Iran, but opponents continue to step up attacks aimed at torpedoing efforts to reach a settlement. They insist that we must walk away from the negotiating table, and that there’s a better deal to be had.

(This originally appeared at War is Boring in 2018.)

That belief is a fantasy.

The reality is that if negotiations with Iran fail, the wreckage will leave the United States without any good options. “If we undermine negotiations now, we’ll have only two choices — Accept the reality of an Iranian nuclear bomb, or use military force to attack Iran’s nuclear program,” former Sen. Carl Levin wrote in a recent op-ed for U.S. News & World Report.

There is hardly a nation in the world that wants a nuclear Iran. But the United States should only consider a war with Iran to be a last resort. “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2012.

Furthermore, he added that such a quixotic attack would only “make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable, [as] they would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.”

Yet the reality of this no-win scenario has done little to deter hawks, both in and out of Congress, from continued attempts to undermine negotiations. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter, signed by 46 of his Republican colleagues, is only the most recent example of their continued campaign of political brinkmanship.

Even more worrisome though, is the cavalier attitude toward the use of U.S. military force that underlies this approach.

In his recent op-ed for The New York Times, former Bush administration official John Bolton backed up the idea of using U.S. military force against Iran.

“The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required,” he wrote.

“Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed,” Bolton added. “Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”

These comments echo Cotton’s statements from earlier this month. “Israel struck Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981 and they didn’t reconstitute it,” Cotton said.“Rogue regimes have a way of getting the picture when there is a credible threat of military force on the table.”

Both Bolton and Cotton’s accounts of the strikes on Iraq in 1981 are completely wrong.

Those strikes actually drove the program underground, where it expanded. This is just what Gates warns would happen with Iran. As Deputy National Security Advisor Colin Kahl wrote in 2012, “new evidence suggests that Hussein had not decided to launch a full-fledged weapons program prior to the Israeli strike.”

“By demonstrating Iraq’s vulnerability, the attack on Osirak actually increased Hussein’s determination to develop a nuclear deterrent and provided Iraq’s scientists an opportunity to better organize the program. The Iraqi leader devoted significantly more resources toward pursuing nuclear weapons after the Israeli assault. As [political scientist Dan] Reiter notes, ‘the Iraqi nuclear program increased from a program of 400 scientists and $400 million to one of 7,000 scientists and $10 billion.’”

More importantly, these sentiments are reminiscent of the Bush administration’s failed policy toward Iran in the early 2000s. When approached with deals that would have seen all of Iran’s enriched uranium converted into fuel rods — and would have capped the program with some 100 odd centrifuges — the Bush administration balked.

Vice President Dick Cheney even once said, “We don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it.” The results? Negotiations collapsed and Iran went from only a few installed centrifuges at the beginning of the Bush administration to about 6,000 by the end.

While many conservatives are quick to spurn negotiations with Iran, they seem to have done very little in the way of analyzing what a war with Iran would actually look like. Maybe they need a reminder.

It would neither be quick nor painless. As former Brookings Institution fellow Noah Shachtman described in 2012, it would be a major major military action, with little chance of lasting success.

“Setting back Iran’s nuclear efforts will need to be an all-out effort, with squadrons of bombers and fighter jets, teams of commandos, rings of interceptor missiles and whole Navy carrier strike groups — plus enough drones, surveillance gear, tanker aircraft and logistical support to make such a massive mission go. And all of it, at best, would buy the U.S. and Israel another decade of a nuke-free Iran.”

Even a limited strike by U.S. air and naval forces would be massive, according toAnthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It is not a simple mission of bombers flying in and out of Iran, this is a complicated Offensive Air Strike that will involve many aircraft, each with its own role, such as Combat Aircarft [sic] whose role is to suppress enemy air defenses along the way, aircraft that fly fighter escort with the bombers, aircraft that carry specialized electronic warfare equipment to jam enemy radars and communications., plus probably air-to-air refueling along the way in and out of Iran.”

Even then, Cordesman added, “depending on the forces allocated and duration of air strikes, it is unlikely that an air campaign alone could alone terminate Iran’s program. The possibility of dispersed facilities complicates any assessment of a potential mission success, making it unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Further complicating matters, U.S. military forces would not be able to simply focus on striking Iranian nuclear targets. They would also have to safeguard the Strait of Hormuz — a narrow waterway connecting the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf — through which some 20 percent of the world’s oil passes, as well as countless other U.S. and allied strategic assets in the area.

Indeed, even a temporary closure of the strait through Iranian deployment of mines, mini-subs, shore-to-ship missile batteries and patrol boats could have a serious effect upon the world economy.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates that the “the rough effects of U.S. [military] action against Iran on the global economy — measured only in the first three months of actualization — [could] range from total losses of approximately $60 billion on one end of the scale to more than $2 trillion to the world economy on the other end.”

All in all, a U.S. or coalition attack against Iran now would be like setting off a bomb in a gunpowder factory. As Cordesman noted, any “military strike [against Iran] could be destabilizing for the entire Middle East region and potentially generate a nuclear weapons race in that part of the world.”

War with Iran is no joke. Critics of a deal with Iran should not treat it like one. A breakdown in negotiations will have serious repercussions for the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. That being the case, lawmakers should be more careful when threatening to use U.S. military force.

The enormous costs involved in engaging U.S. forces against Iran, both human and materiel, should not be bandied about lightly.

As Levin wrote, “We owe it to our friends and allies in the region, and to our men and women in uniform who might have to risk their lives if diplomacy fails, to give negotiations every chance to succeed.”

We should listen to his advice.

Geoff Wilson is a Research Associate at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He has authored articles for The Huffington Post, Defense One and War on the Rocks.

The “Zone” of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Matt Fagan, Staff writer, @fagan_nj

It had been relatively quiet this year, until geologists recorded a 1.3 magnitude quake last weekend in Morris Plains, and then a 1.0 magnitude quake Saturday in Morristown.

Last weekend’s tremor was reported by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Observatory to the Morris Plains Police Department, which issued an advisory to residents on Monday morning.

Lamont-Doherty spokesman Kevin Krajick said the quake was pinpointed to a shallow depth of 6 kilometers just north of Grannis Avenue, between Mountain and Sun Valley ways, about 500 feet southeast of Mountain way School.

Rutgers Newark geology professor talks about earthquakes in northern New Jersey. Matt Fagan/

“It was a very small earthquake at a very shallow depth,” Krajick said. “Most people would not feel an earthquake that small unless they were absolutely right under it, if that.”

“To date (there) were no reported injuries or damage related to the earthquake and no Morris Plains residents reported any activity to this agency,” according to Morris Plains police Chief Jason Kohn

On the other hand, Butler Police Lt. Mike Moeller said his department received “a bunch of calls about it, between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.”

Saturday’s earthquake was so minor that Morristown police said they received no calls from residents

Earthquakes are generally less frequent and less intense in the Northeast compared to the U.S. Pacific Coast, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. But due to geological differences between the regions, earthquakes of similar magnitude affect an area 10 times larger in the Northeast compared to the West Coast.

The 16 tremors recorded in 2016 were minor, generally 1 or 2 magnitude, often misinterpreted as explosions, said Alexander Gates, geology professor at Rutgers University Newark campus.

“A lot of people in Butler felt them over the course of the last year, but a lot of them didn’t know it was an earthquake,” Gates said.

Butler is the borough, but also the name of the fault that sits at the end of aseries of others belonging to the Ramapo Fault, Gates said.

The Ramapo fault, Gates said, is the longest in the Northeast and runs from Pennnsylvania through New Jersey, snaking northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before coming to an end in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant.

“I’d be willing to bet that you’d have to go all the way to Canada and all the way to South Carolina before you’d get one that active,” Gates said of the area which runs from the New York state line in the Ringwood and Mahwah area down to Butler and central Passaic County, Gates said.

Of last year’s 16 earthquakes, 12 were directly associated with the faults around Butler, Gates said.

Butler Councilman Ray Verdonik said area residents are well aware of the frequency of earthquakes and agrees they are often difficult to discern.

During one earthquake, the councilman said he and his neighbors rushed from their homes.

“We thought it was from Picatinny Arsenal or a sonic boom.” he said.

Won-Young Kim, director of the  Lamont-Doherty Cooperative Seismographic Network, which  monitors earthquakes in the Northeast, said often very shallow, the low magnitude quakes’ waves cause much ground motion. He said even though the waves don’t travel very far, they can seem more intense than the magnitude suggests.

They may not topple chimneys, he said but can crack foundations and frighten residents.

To put earthquake magnitudes in perspective, experts said each year there are about 900,000 earthquakes of 2.5 magnitude or less recorded annually by seismograph. These mild tremors are usually not felt.

There are 30,000 that measure between 2.5 and 5.4, and these are often felt, but cause minor damage.

About 500 quakes worldwide are recorded between 5.5 and 6 magnitude per year and cause slight damage to buildings and structures.

The 100 that fall within 6.1 and 6.9 may cause lots of damage in populated areas.

The 20 or so which fall within the 7 and 7.9 magnitude per year are considered major and cause serious damage.

Those that measure at 8 or greater can totally destroy communities near the epicenter and average one every five to 10 years.

The earthquake recorded in Mexico last week measured 7.1 magnitude.

Gates said he has identified most of the region’s numerous faults, but has yet to name them all. Among the unnamed include the faults responsible for last year’s quakes in the region.

Earthquakes in this region are intraplate ones,Gates said, meaning they occur within the plates. Earthquakes of this type account for more than 90 percent of the total seismic energy released around the world.

Plates are the masses of the earth’s crust that slowly move, maybe as little as a few centimeters a year to as much 18 centimeters, around the globe. Faults such as the San Andreas are interplate and occur near where two plates meet.

The plate North America rides upon runs from the Mid Atlantic Ridge to the Pacific Coast. The theory is that as plates interact with one another, they create stress within the plate. Faults occur where the crust is weak, Gates said. Earthquakes relieve the built up pressure.

Boston College Geophysics Professor John Ebel said he and a Virginia Tech colleague, believe the seismically active areas in New York and South Carolina are where some 200 million years ago, the plates tried to break off but failed. This led to a weakening of the earth’s crust which makes them susceptible to quakes.

While not predictable, the data collected seem to suggest earthquakes occur somewhat periodically, 40 active years followed by 40 less active, Gates said.

“We are over due for a 3 or 4” magnitude, Gates said. “A 4 you’d feel. It would shake the area. Everybody would be upset.”

Ebel does not fully agree. He said saying “overdue” might be somewhat misleading.  Earthquakes happen through a slow process of rising stress, “like dropping individual grains of sand on the table.”

You never know which grain will cause the table to break, he said.

Still all three experts say statistically it is only a matter time before a magnitude 5 quake is recorded in the northern New Jersey area.

The scientists said quakes in the Northeastern part of the United States tend to come 100 years apart and the last one was recorded in 1884 believed to be centered south of Brooklyn. It toppled chimneys and moved houses from their foundations across the city and as far as Rahway.

Washington D.C. experienced a 5.8 magnitude quake in 2011, which was felt in the Northeast, Gates said. That quake cracked the Washington Monument.

A similar quake was recorded in 1737 in Weehawken, Gates noted.

“Imagine putting a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Weehawken, New Jersey next to the Bridge, next to the tunnel,” Gates said. “Boy that would be a dangerous one.”

In 2008 Columbia University’s The Earth Institute posted an article titled: “Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study.”

“Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” the article’s co-author John Armbruster wrote. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling.”

The threat though, is not tangible to many, Armbruster wrote.

“There is no one now alive to remember that last one, so people tend to forget. And having only a partial 300-year history, we may not have seen everything we could see. There could be surprises — things bigger than we have ever seen,” Armbruster wrote.

The Earth Institute’s article did note New York City added earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.

New Jersey also began to require earthquake-resistant standards in the 1990s. The state, following the 2011 Virginia quake, now requires lake communities to make dams able to withstand a magnitude 5 earthquake.

The issue, Gates said, is that many of the buildings were built before these codes went into effect. A “sizable” earthquake could cause much damage.

Then there’s the prediction that every 3,400 years this area can expect a quake at 7 magnitude.

According to the Earth Institute article, a  2001 analysis for Bergen County estimates a magnitude 7 quake would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone.  Likewise, in New York City the damage could easily hit hundreds of billions of dollars.

Ebel noted that depending on the depth and power of a severe quake, damage could be also be wide ranging. In 2011, Washington D.C., 90 miles away from the epicenter, which was located in central Virginia, suffered significant damage.  Cities like Philadelphia fall within that radius.

“The big one could happen tomorrow or 100 years from now. That’s the problem,” Gates said. It geological terms 100 years is just a spit in the ocean, he noted.

Then again North Jersey is more likely to be hit by hurricane in the next three years, Gates added.


Staff Writer William Westhoven contributed to this report.

New Jersey’s top earthquakes

• Dec. 19, 1737 — Weehawken, believed to be a 5-plus magnitude quake, could be very serious if occurred in same spot today.

• Nov. 29, 1783 — Western New Jersey. Geologists are not exactly sure where it happened because area was sparsely populated. Estimated magnitude varies from 4.8 to 5.3. Felt from Pennsylvania to New England.

• Aug. 10, 1884 — A 5.2 earthquake occurred somewhere near Jamaica Bay near Brooklyn. The quake toppled chimneys and moved houses off their foundations as far Rahway.

• The biggest earthquake in the last 45 years of data available form USGS was a 3.8 quake centered in Carneys Point in Salem County on the morning of Feb.28, 1973

• New Jersey has never recorded a fatality due to an earthquake, according to the DEP.

Antichrist calls on Turkey to respect Iraqi territory

Shiite cleric Sadr calls on Turkey to respect Iraqi territory

Shiite cleric Sadr calls on Turkey to respect Iraqi territory

He also condemned “terrorist attacks” against Turkey, arguing Ankara should be permitted to protect all its borders, and Iraq shouldn’t become safe haven to launch attacks against its neighbors. Sadr “strongly” denounced “terrorist” operations against Turkey — not naming any certain group.

The Shiite politician emphasized the importance of the sovereignty of Iraq and resisting outside interference. He called on the Iraqi government to cancel all agreements which would undermine that.

The Sadr statement comes as clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have intensified in the northern mountains of the Kurdistan Region near the border with Turkey.

Turkey began its new Operation Claw on May 27 against the PKK, using helicopters to deploy forces further into Iraqi territory, long used by the PKK as a staging ground and headquarters for cross-border attacks.

Sadr is the head of the Sayirun alliance, the winner of Iraq’s parliamentary election last year. He has played a huge role in the formation of the current government. Although he, himself, chose to stay out of parliament and the government, his words carry much weight in Iraqi politics.

“At the same time, I call on the Turkish government to settle the matter of ‘opposition’ in a peaceful manner, based on systematic dialogue that preserves the safety and freedom of expression of both sides through logical and civilized methods,” Sadr posited.

Calling the PKK “opposition” as opposed to a “terrorist organization” goaded Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz into a response, disputing Sadr’s verbiage.

“We are speaking to those who claim to be friends of Turkey and await our friendship. There is no need to use dodgy expressions concerning the PKK, because the PKK is not of an opposition formation. The PKK is a terrorist organization,” Yildiz said in a tweet on Friday of the political party banned and designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish state.

Sadr’s position is consistent with the government of Iraq. Baghdad repeatedly has asked Turkey to stop its airstrikes, but it has also said it won’t permit Iraq to be a launching pad for attacks against neighbors by armed groups. However, Iraq’s borders are porous and many towns and villages span multiple countries.

In the past few years, primarily rural areas were targeted. However, the areas hit in the most recent attacks lie just outside urban centers, raising the risk for civilians who worry of being caught in crossfire.

This week, Turkey targeted the more-populated Amedi area about 70 kilometers north of the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil city. The strikes signal a possible dangerous escalation.

In return, PKK has staged daily attacks against Turkish security forces — both in Iraqi and Turkish territory.

Up to 40,000 people have died in the conflict since 1984. At least 4,397 people have been killed since the short-lived peace process collapsed in 2015, according to the International Crisis Group.

The PKK argues that it is not a terrorist organization and has fought a nearly four-decade-long struggle against the Turkish state, striving for greater political, cultural, and minority rights.

Iraqi President Barham Salih in a visit to Turkey on May 29 stressed that Iraq’s sovereignty needs to be preserved, rejecting Turkey’s unilateral military actions.

Ayatollah Mocks the Donald (Revelation 8:4)

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Tehran’s Provisional Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei acted based on Islamic teachings when he humiliated US President Donald Trump in the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Leader, who said “I see no merit in Trump as a person to deserve the exchange of any messages, and I do not have any answer for him and will not give him any either”, acted based on Islamic teachings, Ayatollah Khatami said, addressing a gathering of worshippers in Tehran on Friday.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s response is based on the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he said, adding that “arrogant” persons should be humiliated and Trump deserved such response by the Leader.

The cleric further pointed to a recent report by The Washington Post Fact Checker, and said according to the report by the American media outlet, Trump has told more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe held a meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran on Thursday morning.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Japanese prime minister said he intended to relay a message to Iran from US President Donald Trump.

In response, Ayatollah Khamenei told Abe, “We have no doubts about your goodwill and seriousness, but with regard to what you relayed from the US president, I see no merit in Trump as a person to deserve the exchange of any messages, and I do not have any answer for him and will not give him any either.”

As regards the Japanese premier’s comments about Trump’s assertion that Washington does not seek a regime change in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran’s problem with the US does not relate to the issue of regime change, although the US would never achieve such an objective even if it wanted to.

“Trump’s claim that he does not intend to change the regime (in Iran) is a lie, because he would do this if he was able to, but he can’t,” Ayatollah Khamenei underlined.

On the Japanese leader’s message that the US has called for nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Leader said the US once reneged on an agreement that was reached after five to six years of negotiations with the US and Europeans. “So, which wise man would negotiate again with a country that has broken all agreements?”

In response to the Japanese leader’s comments that the US is resolved to prevent Iran from producing nukes, Ayatollah Khamenei underlined, “We are opposed to nuclear weapons and my religious fatwa is that production of nuclear weapons is haram (forbidden), but be mindful that if we ever intended to produce nuclear weapons, the US would not be able to do anything, and the American rejection would not pose any obstacle.”

Ayatollah Khamenei also noted that the US which has a stockpile of thousands of nuclear warheads is in no position to comment about nuclear weapons in the other countries.

In response to Abe’s comments that the US is ready for genuine talks with Iran, the Leader said, “We do not believe it at all, because sincere negotiations would not come from an individual like Trump.”

“Sincerity is very rare among the American officials,” the Leader noted.

Ayatollah Is Correct: America Can’t Stop Iran Getting Nuclear Weapons

Ayatollah Says America Can’t Stop Iran Getting Nuclear Weapons

Iran’s supreme leader has once again said the country has no interest in acquiring nuclear weapons—but also warned that if it did want to, the U.S. would not be able to stop it.

Speaking during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Thursday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his nation would not reopen negotiations with the U.S. as President Donald Trump had done nothing to earn it, according to the Ayatollah’s personal website.

Abe is in Iran to act as a go-between between Washington and Tehran following several weeks of heightened tensions between the two rivals.

The diplomatic crisis began last year when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—often referred to as the Iran nuclear deal—demanding a renegotiated settlement that included restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional influence. His withdrawal allowed the U.S. to re-implement crippling sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear power program.

In May, the Trump administration began ending waivers issued to nations that had allowed them to continue trading with Iran without repercussion, with the goal of cutting the nation’s oil exports to zero.

Citing an imminent threat from Iran, the administration then sent fresh military assets to the region to guard against any potential aggression, raising fears the standoff may descend into open conflict.

Though the war of words between the two nations has somewhat abated in recent weeks, there appears little hope of a new nuclear agreement. Attacks on commercial shipping off the coast of the United Arab Emirates—which the U.S. blamed on Iran but in which Tehran denied involvement—have further strained tensions.

On Thursday, two more attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman again threatened to escalate the standoff, though no accusations of responsibility have yet been issued.

Abe’s visit was designed to soothe relations between the U.S. and Iran and convey Trump’s wish to enter into new discussions about Tehran’s nuclear program. But Khamenei said: „We do not believe that at all, because genuine talks would not come from someone like Trump.“

„I don’t regard Trump as deserving any exchange of messages and have no response for him and will give no response,“ the supreme leader added.

Khamenei stressed that Iran has no desire to build a nuclear arsenal. „We oppose nuclear weapons and we have issued a religious fatwa prohibiting building nuclear weapons,“ he said. „But rest assured that if we wanted to build nuclear weapons, the U.S. would not be able to do anything about it, and the United States‘ prohibition would not be an obstacle.“

„The United States has no competency, by any means, to speak out about what country should or shouldn’t have nuclear weapons,“ he added, „because the United States possess arsenals of thousands of nuclear warheads.“

Abe also communicated a message from Trump to Khamenei saying the U.S. is not pursuing regime change in Iran, though National Security Adviser John Bolton has been open about his desire to topple the theocratic regime.

Khamenei’s response was, again, stubborn. „Our problem with the United States is not about regime change,“ he told Abe. „Even if they intend to do pursue that, they won’t be able to achieve it; just as previous U.S. presidents tried to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran during the past 40 years, and failed.“

„What Trump says—that he is not after regime change—is a lie. For, if he could do so, he would. However, he is not capable of doing it.“

Thursday’s tanker attacks will be another spanner in the works of U.S.-Iranian dialogue. The U.S. and its allies have not yet apportioned blame, but Iran will be a prime suspect given its proximity to the incident, past threats to close the Strait of Hormuz and recent tension with the U.S.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter: „Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.“ He did not speculate as to who may be responsible.