Donald Trump’s Decision To Kill Soleimani WILL End Up Being ‘Catastrophic’

February 21, 2020, 10:33 PM UTC

Donald Trump’s Decision To Kill Soleimani Could End Up Being ‘Catastrophic’

When news first emerged of the U.S. drone strike, which killed Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, many were taken aback. As a U.S. military veteran and student of world affairs, drone strikes are nothing new to me, butthis strike represented more than those we’re so used to hearing about: decision makers in the United States had charged out of the “gray zone” of conflict with a targeted strike to kill an Iranian state official on third party soil.The decision to do so has long-term implications, some of which we’ve already seen. Only one week after the strike, outraged Iraqi politicians voted to expel American troops from the country. Iranian missiles rained down around two Iraqi bases that host American troops. Worst of all, the Iranian people rallied together in support of their fallen hero and in support of the Iranian regime’s promised response – a unity of support that the regime hasn’t enjoyed for many years. Individually these consequences are concerning for long-term U.S. interests in the region. Together, they have catastrophic potential.

These issues were on the minds of many in the room when Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies on February 7th in Washington DC. I had the opportunity to ask Secretary Esper regarding what the “long-term, strategic benefit” of the Suleimani strike was. His answer was familiar:

“Well, the long-term, strategic benefit is we took off the playing field, off the battlefield – and he was on the battlefield as a battlefield commander, one of their most effective commanders – somebody who is a terrorist leader…a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, who had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands over many, many years. By the way, he had the blood of hundreds of other people around the world on his hands, too, including the Iranian people. And so it was an easy decision for me to make that, as it was for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Again, he had the blood of Americans on his hands as recently as, I think, the attack of December 27th that the IRGC was behind, and he was actively planning the next attack. And so I think taking him off the field – a battlefield leader off the battlefield – was a good response to Iranian bad behavior and his personal actions over many, many years.”  U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper

Secretary Esper and others in the administration have issued similar versions of this answer before, but it remains insufficient; the Secretary offers only short-term, tactical benefits as justification for an action with broad strategic implications. Removal of a battlefield commander is the very definition of a tactical action, not a strategic one. Without the proper planning, forces and assets in place to capitalize on the ensuing confusion and chaos, the elimination of an enemy commander yields only temporary disruption to their fighting capability. Further, it seems difficult to believe that the “next attack” (whatever it’s alleged to have been) was thwarted by Soleimani’s death. The General’s second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani, was appointed the new commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force only hours after Soleimani’s death. As Soleimani’s longtime number two, here’s every reason to believe thatQaani remains fully aware of these “plans” and intends to make good on them one day. This lends itself to a broader point, which undermines Esper’s reasoning: within those organizations which wish the U.S. harm or imperil its interests, the “next attack” is always being planned, regardless of who’s in charge.

The important difference between strategy and tactics (and that which the Secretary ignored in his answer) is this: strategies span forces, years and decades. Tactics are the means and actions which an organization takes in pursuit of strategy. And, as Sun Tzu wrote, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Just as importantly, no tactic – whatever the potential rewards – should be executed at the expense of the long-term strategy. It appears possible, perhaps even likely, that Soleimani’s death did just that.

Iran has spent years attempting to bridge its generational divide using propaganda to cultivate a new, Iran-centric nationalism. One of the most successful of these efforts proved to be the story – and legend – of Soleimani, a frontline leader revered as the brave protector of Iran and the force which kept threats like ISIS at bay. Soleimani was a rare unifier, joining reformists and hard-liners of all stripes in admiration for his courage in the face of U.S., Israeli, Saudi and ISIS threats. Many Arabs admired him as well (the same Soleimani propaganda pieces which aired in Iran were often re-dubbed in Arabic and broadcast for Iraqis to see and hear), seeing him as a fellow-Shiite protector against the same extremist elements which overtook Iraq in the rise and fall of ISIS.

After his death, Soleimani unified Iranian society once more – this time in grief and anger – as people from all parts of the political and religious spectrum joined in grieving his death. More importantly, Iranians fell in step behind the government, which vowed retribution in the name of their fallen hero. Iranian society was, however briefly, galvanized by Soleimani’s death. In dispatching Soleimani, U.S. policymakers, including Secretary Esper, gave the Iranian regime what they’ve spent years trying hardest to obtain: national unity.

Bolstered by the public response, the Iranian regime struck back days later with a missile attack on two U.S. military assets in Iraq. That IRGC incompetence and a lack of training squandered the national goodwill (the Iranian public was infuriated to learn that a loaded passenger jet was inadvertently downed by IRGC missiles in the hours immediately following the ballistic response) is irrelevant: Iranian leaders saw the unity and support they briefly gained, the U.S. can be certain that they’ll tap the public anger over the Soleimani strike as a means of reclaiming it. The name “Soleimani” will be carried forward for decades to come as a rallying cry by the regime to solidify national unity against the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and to gain domestic support for the regime’s malign foreign antics.

What’s more, the Iranian ballistic missile attack against U.S. hardware in Iraq was a pea-shooting response to the fiery obliteration of their most vaunted national figure. To believe that Iranian anger over Soleimani’s death and their hopes for revenge were sated by the destruction of several U.S. drones and sheds would be a major miscalculation;their long-term response will be deadly, destabilizing and well within the gray zone of conflict. For this reason, it seems clear that the tactical decision to kill Soleimani – however, despicable his crimes – undercuts U.S. strategy in the region, along with any hope of a more (as opposed to less) stable future for the Middle East. Increased Iranian unity for anti-American adventures means greater, continued risk to U.S. personnel in the region.

Secretary Esper often reminds audiences that Soleimani was a legitimate military target, a fact that is almost indisputable in the context of the Global War on Terror. Not every “legitimate” target is the best or most intelligent one to strike, however. I believe Secretary Esper when he says that the decision was “easy;” most decisions are made easier by making them in a vacuum. But such decisions are more difficult when made amidst their broader strategic contexts. This decision may have been easy, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

Brandon C. Patrick is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins SAIS, where his research focuses on Iranian military innovation. After serving as a linguist in the U.S. Air Force, he earned degrees in Arabic and Middle Eastern / North African studies from the University of Arizona. He lives with his wife in Virginia.

His article first appeared at RealClearDefense.

What Nuclear War Against Russia Looks Like

BREAKING: U.S. Nukes Russia in Simulation Exercise


Secretary of Defense Mark Esper earlier this week participated in a “mini exercise” in which the United States launched a simulated nuclear strike against Russia, a senior Pentagon official announced Feb. 21.

While the U.S. military frequently conducts exercises to practice the mechanics of nuclear warfare and plays tabletop games to simulate crises, it is unusual for senior Pentagon officials to describe the results and for the secretary of defense to take part.

During the exercise that took place this week at Strategic Command in Nebraska, Esper played himself in a simulated showdown in Europe between Russia and NATO, a senior defense official told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon under condition of anonymity.

They attacked us with a low-yield nuclear [warhead], and in the course of the exercise we simulated responding with a nuclear weapon,” the official said, adding that it was a “limited” response. The official did not say what type of platform launched the attack in the simulation.

The pretend Russian attack was against a NATO target in Europe. The official did not say what type of target the U.S. military simulated attacking in retaliation.

During the briefing with reporters, senior Pentagon officials made the case for beefing up investments in the nation’s nuclear forces. The Trump administration is continuing plans drawn up by the Obama administration to modernize the military’s inventory of intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, submarines and air-launched cruise missiles. The plan is to bring online a new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, B-21 bomber, Columbia-class submarine and Long-Range Stand-Off weapon in the next decade or so.

The Trump administration has additional initiatives for the sea-based leg of the triad that were not part of the Obama administration’s plans. They include a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead and a sea-launched cruise missile. Earlier this month, the Defense Department announced that the low-yield SLBM warhead, the W76-2, had been deployed. Pentagon officials are currently conducting an analysis of alternatives for a new sea-launched cruise missile, with the aim of fielding it in the next seven to 10 years.

Plans also call for modernizing the nuclear stockpile, which is managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The Trump administration will start a program of record for a new warhead, the W93, to replace aging warheads such as the W88, the official said.

The official noted that the United States is an era of great power competition with Russia and China, as outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. “The other side is building their nuclear weapons up, modernizing their stockpiles, and so this [U.S. modernization effort] is just a sensible response to that.”

During his visit to Stratcom, Esper was briefed on Russian, Chinese and North Korean nuclear threats, and discussed the challenges of replacing legacy systems with next-generation capabilities.

“We spoke a little bit about the transition risks involved with maintaining the old systems — the ICBMs, subs, bombers, cruise missiles — and making sure that the new systems come online before the old systems expire,” the official said. “The secretary is very much captured with … managing this so-called transition risk.

“We’ve had a couple of deep dives with the secretary so he understands that that period is going to be very risky,” the official added. “You’ve been tracking acquisition programs at the Pentagon for a long time, and there’s always a risk that the systems won’t be delivered on time. And so how do you manage that risk? We spent a lot of time on that — not just the weapon systems themselves but also the nuclear command-and-control that supports that.”

Plans to modernize the U.S. strategic arsenal are expected to come with a hefty price tag. The Congressional Budget Office, among others, has estimated that it will be north of $1 trillion.

The senior defense official pushed back on the notion that the modernization effort will break the bank as the military simultaneously pursues a new generation of conventional weapon systems.

“It’s affordable,” the official said. “You’ve heard a lot about a $1.3 trillion triad … [but] that’s over 30 years.”

Today about 4 percent of the defense budget goes toward the nuclear arsenal, including operation and sustainment costs, he noted. That will rise to about 6.4 percent during the peak of the recapitalization effort at the end of this decade, where it will remain for about 10 years. After that it will decrease to a “steady state” of about 3 percent of the budget pie, he added.

For fiscal year 2021, President Donald Trump has requested $28.9 billion for the nuclear enterprise, including $12 billion for modernization. He requested an additional $15.6 billion for NNSA efforts, according to the senior defense official.

Another senior defense official who briefed reporters was asked which modernization programs pose the greatest transition risk.

“I won’t say that any particular program either on the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy side … is more risky than others. But we know, looking at large capital acquisition and recapitalization programs in the past, that it is difficult to keep them on track and on budget and deliver on time,” the official said.

Legacy systems are well past their planned service lives, the official noted. That is one reason why nuclear modernization programs are the Pentagon’s top priority.

“The key thing is making sure they are fully funded both on the Department of Defense and on the NNSA side, and that’s what you see in the president’s budget request,” the official added.

Two Centuries Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

The worst earthquake in Massachusetts history 260 years ago

It happened before, and it could happen again.

By Hilary Sargent @lilsarg Staff | 11.19.15 | 5:53 AM

On November 18, 1755, Massachusetts experienced its largest recorded earthquake.

The earthquake occurred in the waters off Cape Ann, and was felt within seconds in Boston, and as far away as Nova Scotia, the Chesapeake Bay, and upstate New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Seismologists have since estimated the quake to have been between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

While there were no fatalities, the damage was extensive.

According to the USGS, approximately 100 chimneys and roofs collapsed, and over a thousand were damaged.

The worst damage occurred north of Boston, but the city was not unscathed.

A 1755 report in The Philadelphia Gazette described the quake’s impact on Boston:

“There was at first a rumbling noise like low thunder, which was immediately followed with such a violent shaking of the earth and buildings, as threw every into the greatest amazement, expecting every moment to be buried in the ruins of their houses. In a word, the instances of damage done to our houses and chimnies are so many, that it would be endless to recount them.”

The quake sent the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall tumbling to the ground, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

An account of the earthquake, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette on December 4, 1755.

The earthquake struck at 4:30 in the morning, and the shaking lasted “near four minutes,” according to an entry John Adams, then 20, wrote in his diary that day.

The brief diary entry described the damage he witnessed.

“I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it,” he wrote. “The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.”

The shaking was so intense that the crew of one ship off the Boston coast became convinced the vessel had run aground, and did not learn about the earthquake until they reached land, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In 1832, a writer for the Hampshire (Northampton) Gazette wrote about one woman’s memories from the quake upon her death.

“It was between 4 and 5 in the morning, and the moon shone brightly. She and the rest of the family were suddenly awaked from sleep by a noise like that of the trampling of many horses; the house trembled and the pewter rattled on the shelves. They all sprang out of bed, and the affrightted children clung to their parents. “I cannot help you dear children,” said the good mother, “we must look to God for help.”

The Cape Ann earthquake came just 17 days after an earthquake estimated to have been 8.5-9.0 on the Richter scale struck in Lisbon, Portugal, killing at least 60,000 and causing untold damage.

There was no shortage of people sure they knew the impretus for the Cape Ann earthquake.

According to many ministers in and around Boston, “God’s wrath had brought this earthquake upon Boston,” according to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

In “Verses Occasioned by the Earthquakes in the Month of November, 1755,” Jeremiah Newland, a Taunton resident who was active in religious activities in the Colony, wrote that the earthquake was a reminder of the importance of obedience to God.

“It is becaufe we broke thy Laws,

that thou didst shake the Earth.

O what a Day the Scriptures say,

the EARTHQUAKE doth foretell;

O turn to God; lest by his Rod,

he cast thee down to Hell.”

Boston Pastor Jonathan Mayhew warned in a sermon that the 1755 earthquakes in Massachusetts and Portugal were “judgments of heaven, at least as intimations of God’s righteous displeasure, and warnings from him.”

There were some, though, who attempted to put forth a scientific explanation for the earthquake.

Well, sort of.

In a lecture delivered just a week after the earthquake, Harvard mathematics professor John Winthrop said the quake was the result of a reaction between “vapors” and “the heat within the bowels of the earth.” But even Winthrop made sure to state that his scientific theory “does not in the least detract from the majesty … of God.”

It has been 260 years since the Cape Ann earthquake. Some experts, including Boston College seismologist John Ebel, think New England could be due for another significant quake.

In a recent Boston Globe report, Ebel said the New England region “can expect a 4 to 5 magnitude quake every decade, a 5 to 6 every century, and a magnitude 6 or above every thousand years.”

If the Cape Ann earthquake occurred today, “the City of Boston could sustain billions of dollars of earthquake damage, with many thousands injured or killed,” according to a 1997 study by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Iranians pay tribute to their Martyr

Iranians pay tribute to ‘martyr general’ as they vote

By Agence France-PresseFebruary 21, 2020
In Iran, learning to be an anti-American soldier of the Islamic republic can start as early as 19 months of age — at least for one family voting in Friday’s general election.

But Mannaan, a blond toddler perched on his grandfather’s shoulders at a polling station in the historic Hosseini Ershad mosque in upscale north Tehran, looked decidedly uninterested.

“I brought him here to train him in the way of the Islamic Revolution and to punch the US in the face,” his grandfather Mohammadi said, as the boy looked up at the mosque’s ornate dome and giant chandeliers.

Mohammadi, a 47-year-old factory worker, also carried a placard, denouncing US President Donald Trump — who unilaterally pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and has since heaped sanctions on the country.

“Oh gambler Trump, we are here to vote,” it said.

Addressing Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the placard added: “Dear Leader, we are ready to sacrifice our lives for you.”

The parliamentary election comes amid steeply escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, which imposed fresh sanctions on five top officials in the country on the eve of the vote.

A low turnout was expected, with rising voter apathy hurting Rouhani, who was re-elected in 2017 promising more freedoms and the benefits of engagement with the West.

– ‘Martyr Soleimani is alive’

Looming large in the minds of many voters was Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, a powerful figure who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Many carried posters of the hugely popular general, pledging eternal allegiance and vowing vengeance.

Mehdi Zojagi went a step further, riding a bicycle festooned with plastic flowers from top to bottom, without even an inch of metal or rubber showing.

The handlebar bore a flag with one side showing Soleimani in paradise with other prominent deceased Iranians, including Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The other side displayed the general’s image with the inscription: “I too am a soldier of martyred general Qasem Soleimani.”

“I’m here to tell the enemy that martyr Soleimani is alive and will be alive,” the 85-year-old businessman said, speaking at a mosque-turned-polling station in Khorasan, a working-class neighbourhood in Tehran’s south.

The entrance to the Lorzadeh mosque bore a gigantic banner showing Soleimani’s bust and splotches of red paint.

Under it was the simple slogan: “Martyr Soleimani’s blood will wipe Israel from the face of the Earth.”

But others were concerned about more basic issues like joblessness and the cost of living in the sanctions-hit country.

“Unemployment is a big problem and many youths are turning to drugs,” said Hosseini Okhash, 18, after voting for the first time.

Many said they had turned up to cast ballots because the country’s supreme leader Khamenei told them it was their “religious duty”.

– ‘People have lost faith’ –

Outgoing lawmaker Elyas Hazrati said he voted despite losing the right to stand again.

“I was disqualified by the Guardian Council over… lack of material commitment to the Islamic republic,” he said.

Only around half of the 16,033 hopefuls are contesting the 290 seats up for grabs as the Guardian Council election monitor disqualified thousands, mostly moderates and reformists.

Ahmad, 30, looked on bemused outside the mosque and said he was shunning the vote to preserve peace at home.

“My wife told me, ‘I will kill you if you vote’,” he said, adding that she “hates this government”.

“It’s killing innocent people. We have lost everything and there’s nothing more to lose,” he said, referring to sweeping fuel price protests in November which drew a deadly crackdown.

“People have lost confidence and faith.”

Photo by the Ali Khamenei website.

© 2020 AFP

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We Will Fail to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is

We Need to Treat Nuclear War Like the Emergency It Is

If the current state of global affairs reminds you of an over-the-top plot by a white-cat-stroking James Bond villain, you’re not far off. When it comes to nuclear policy, we are closer than ever to a real-life movie disaster.

During his February 4 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump declared that “the Iranian regime must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” He omitted the part where he withdrew the United States from the only existing international treaty with the capability to compel the Iranian regime to do so.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran Deal, is the one international treaty that has effectively de-escalated tensions and ensured continued progress in securing Iran’s nonproliferation. It’s vital that the United States reenters the Iran Deal, or it could take ages to repair the damage and restart progress.

That treaty isn’t the only one on the chopping block.

The United States has also withdrawn from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia, a vital arms reduction treaty that was responsible for eliminating over 2,600 intermediate-range missiles, bringing tangible progress in stabilization and disarmament efforts between the two countries.

The most important remaining international arms control treaty to which the United States is still a party, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), is set to expire in February 2021, just a year from now.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly offered to immediately extend New START, without any preconditions. However, the treaty’s future is unclear — Trump may attempt to reach a broader deal involving China, as some of his advisors have suggested, or may trash this treaty as well.

Nuclear weapons make us all less safe. The United States can and must once again lead on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Nothing less than human health and survival is at stake. We all have a vested interest in ensuring nuclear weapons are not used.

Despite that existential risk, the U.S. Defense Department confirmed on February 5 that the Navy has deployed a low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists first disclosed the deployment a week before that.

These warheads lower the threshold for potential nuclear conflict while increasing the chances of a real-life James Bond movie situation, due to human error or miscalculation. These low-yield warheads may be indistinguishable on radar from missiles armed with high-yield bombs, meaning an adversary could respond to such a launch with a full attack, immediately escalating the conflict to full nuclear war.

Proponents of this low-yield nuclear warhead say it is more “usable,” a euphemistic phrase that should send chills down the spines of anyone who can’t afford to escape planetary orbit on a SpaceX rocket.

“Low-yield” nuclear weapons are misleadingly named. At 6.5 kilotons, they are 591 times more powerful than the largest conventional weapon the United States has ever used, the GBU-43/B “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” (MOAB) bomb, and 2,600 times more powerful than the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb.

In fact, the W76-2 “low-yield” nuclear weapon that was deployed on those submarines can have up to 43 percent of the yield of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. That bomb killed between 90,000 and 166,000 people.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock, we’re at just 100 seconds to midnight, thanks in part to the Trump administration’s reckless, systematic dismantling and undermining of vital international arms control agreements.

We can and must avoid getting any closer to the brink of nuclear war — we’re already dangling too close to the edge. It’s time for the United States to reenter or renegotiate vital arms control treaties like the Iran Deal and extend New START.

Israel Retaliates Against Jihad Outside the Temple Walls (Rev 11)

IDF retaliates against ‘Islamic Jihad sniper unit’ that shot at soldiers near Gaza Strip

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File
FILE – Israeli soldiers gather around tanks near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008

One person in Khan Yunis area critically wounded from attack, Palestinian media report

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said on Wednesday that it it retaliated against an “Islamic Jihad sniper unit” after members of the terrorist group reportedly fired at soldiers positioned near the Gaza border earlier in the day.

“A short while ago, IDF forces identified a sniper unit of Islamic Jihad who fired from the Khan Yunis area at Israeli soldiers,” the IDF spokesperson said in a statement.

“In response, the IDF attacked the sniper squad to remove the threat,” it added.

Palestinian media reported that one person in the Gaza Strip was critically injured in the IDF attack. No Israeli soldiers were hurt in the exchange.

Immediate reports in Palestinian media suggest one person was critically injured by IDF fire, while another one was lightly hurt. It is yet unclear if the reports are connected with the incident.

This is a developing story.

Kashmir is a Theatre of War (Daniel 8)

Kashmir : a theatre of war?

Fragile Kashmir would not be able to sustain being a theatre for a conventional war

Last month speaking at the my Dialogue, the Indian Chief of Defence, General Bipin, told a global audience that Kashmiri girls and boys as young as 10 and 12 were being radicalised and that “these people” could be “isolated” from radicalisation. Hel then said, “There are people who have completely been radicalised… these people need to be taken out separately… into deradicalisation camps.” He also admitted that India already had deradicalisation ‘camps’ running in the country.

This certainly came as a blow to the Indians who are proud of their democratic values, but the Kashmiris were simply devastated. Three months within the repealing of Article 370, Indian authorities had admitted arresting 7,000 Kashmiris, mostly youth — families of many of whom were not informed about their whereabouts. Where are they then, if no one really knows? Are they in the ‘camps’? Not to forget the hundreds of politicians under house-arrests, and newspaper offices that have been locked up. Was that also part of a corrective conditioning?

Going further in their fascism, the Modi regime enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December, and proposed a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) — both discriminatory laws that divide India on the lines of religion, race and class. Over 200 million Muslims living in India feel like second-class citizens now and fear that the NRC, if used stringently, might render many of them stateless. The question is that will the NRC be used as a demographic weapon in Kashmir, too?

It seems that India’s urgency in its pursuit of becoming a regional power has only multiplied under the Hindutva rule. But at the same time, the avarice for power has put the ruling party at battle with its own people — the Hindutva mindset has cut out enemies from within. Showing to be an apt internationalist, Modi has been pursuing ambitious plans like the Act East, the Sagarmala, and the Mausam Project in the Indian Ocean littoral. Yet his ambition to boost India’s military might is the most dangerous — one that would lead to the compounding of power and intolerance in India.

In 2013, India set a naval base on the North Andaman Island, from where its surveillance and airstrike capacity will encompass the Malacca Strait and parts of the South China Sea. In the West, it is strengthening strategic ties with the UAE and Seychelles; so much for reaching out to the world and trying to bring the Indo-Pacific under its wings. But is India aspiring towards the path of war with its neighbours too?

General Bipin’s latest flag-waving of “India is looking at setting up a separate theatre command for Jammu and Kashmir”, seems to mean precisely that. Bipin’s revelation, “India will have two to five theatre commands… along the western and northern borders…” rings the alarm. Previously, the northern theatre was thought for countering the China border and the western theatre for the Pakistan border — already creating precedence for war in the neighbourhood. But what does “a separate theatre command for Jammu and Kashmir” mean?

Does it mean that India will deliberately convert Jammu and Kashmir into a ‘theatre of war’? Will India drag its war with Pakistan or China into Kashmir? This could certainly be the case if, according to Bipin, “security challenges” in Occupied Kashmir will then be handled by the “theatre command” meaning that “security” in Kashmir will no longer be dealt under “counter-terrorism” but under war footing — a war against the Kashmiri people.

Already, Kashmir is among the top ten conflicts that the International Crisis Group has highlighted for 2020. So has the Munich Security Conference Report 2020, which says, “While the security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile, Kashmir, another regional hotspot, has reignited… the situation deteriorated further when India stripped the Muslim majority region of Jammu and Kashmir off its autonomy rights and imposed a security lockdown, during which Kashmiris suffered arrests, shortage of medicine, communication cuts and a rising death toll of both civilians and militant fighters.”

Connecting Kashmir with the situation in Afghanistan is merited, as the US would find itself in a defeated position if it has to withdraw all its forces from the country. In that case, it would want to entice India to start a war with Pakistan so that scores can be settled there. Modi signed an agreement with Obama in 2016 allowing the US to use its land, air and naval bases. This not only shows how much the two are banking on each other as allies, rather it manifests the reality that India is the only reliable ally the US has in the region.

But is the US really an ally for India, if it instigates it to become a theatre of war? This would probably be a win-win for the US, who is particularly fond of proxy warfare in far-off states with minimum boots on ground but for India and Pakistan, it would mean that in case of a nuclear outbreak, according to the Munich Report, 50 to 125 million immediate deaths would occur along with utter devastation to the climate and land. Now, if the theatre is specifically diverted towards Kashmir, what will become its fate?

Even if a next Pakistan-India conflict does not turn into a nuclear war, fragile Kashmir would not be able to sustain being a theatre for a conventional war either, and demographic change would just be collateral damage.

So, how far will the Modi regime go to satisfy their Hindutva in Kashmir, which demands nothing less than a demographic change? Will they go for war? The only way they could bet on success in such a war would be on devising a conventional war, wherein Pakistan could be kept from using the nuclear option and wherein the US would join it in the theatre and China be convinced not to. A most improbable equation, only finding its way in the minds of the deranged.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2020.

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New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Rev 6:12)

New York City Is Overdue For Large Earthquake: Seismologist

Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.

The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.

Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.

“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and  chimneys.

Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.

Pompeo Makes a Push for WW3

Pompeo: U.S. Won’t Stand By as Iran Continues Attacks on American Outposts in Iraq

Adam KredoFebruary 19, 2020 6:20 AM

The United States will not stand by without taking action in response to Iran’s ongoing support for attacks on American outposts in Iraq
, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

In the past few days, Iraqi terror groups likely backed by Iran have launched yet another series of strikes on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. The latest round of missiles reportedly landed inside the U.S. embassy compound, while at least one other struck near a coalition base.

Responding to questions from the Washington Free Beacon on his plane en route to Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said the Trump administration will not allow Iranian-backed strikes to become the new normal for American outposts in war-torn Iraq.

“I never broadcast what our response may be in advance, but we’re mindful that it cannot become ordinary course that the Iranians through their proxy forces in Iraq are putting the lives of Americans at risk,” Pompeo said. “This can’t be ordinary, this can’t be routine. There, in the end, has to be accountability connected to those very serious attacks.”

Iran’s blatant support for the terror groups orchestrating these strikes prompted the Trump administration in January to kill top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a move that has sparked a broadening conflict between the United States and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. government continues to investigate the latest round of strikes to determine who exactly launched them. Neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials have gone so far as to identify Iran as being behind the attack, but Tehran’s financial and military support for local militia groups is well known.

“We’re working with the Iraqi government. They have a responsibility to keep our embassy and our military facilities secure,” Pompeo said, expressing regret that “they repeatedly have not been able to achieve that.”

“We’re looking to not only apprehend those who conducted this attack but demanding they still do more work,” he added.

Pompeo confirmed that that there were no American injuries or deaths as a result of the latest missile salvo.

The secretary of state also expressed his administration’s continued willingness to engage directly with Iran for talks.

“We’re prepared to talk at anytime. But they’ve got to fundamentally change their behavior. That’s what we’ve asked for consistently for three years of the Trump administration,” Pompeo said.

Iran must end its continued buildup of its nuclear weapons program, including the enrichment of uranium to levels prohibited under the landmark nuclear accord and resulting United Nations resolutions.

“You can’t build out your nuclear program, you can’t foment terror around the world,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also called on Iran to stop building up its offensive missile capabilities, such as medium- and short-range ballistic missiles. These programs also are sanctioned under U.N. resolutions.

“They’ve got to get the missile program back in a place where they’re permitted to defend themselves, but no more than that,” Pompeo said.

“When they’re prepared to come to the table and talk about those, so are we,” he added. “We’re standing by. We’re not anxious. We’re not rushed. The pressure campaign continues. It’s not just an economic pressure campaign, it’s diplomatic pressure, it’s isolation through diplomacy as well.”

Once in Saudi Arabia, Pompeo will spend several days meeting with the country’s leaders primarily about Iran. The issue of human rights and the economic partnership with the United States also will feature into the meetings.

From Saudi Arabia, Pompeo will travel to Oman, another Gulf nation that plays a central role in the U.S. fight against terrorism and Iranian aggression.

Several rockets fired again near the US embassy

Several rockets fired again near the US embassy in Baghdad: US military sources

February 19, 2020
Several rockets were fired near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad in the early hours of Sunday. A source from the US Army gave that information.

Coalition military spokesman Miles Cagins said: “The coalition army confirmed that rockets were fired on the location of the coalition () troops in the international zone. “No casualties were reported.
The base of the Union III houses the headquarters of the army of the coalition led by the Americans. US troops have been stationed here since 2014 to help local troops to fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Iraqi army said three rockets targeted the Green Zone where the embassy of the United States and the military base of the Union III and several buildings of the Iraqi government, the United Nations Office and other embassies.

The Iraqi army said the fourth rocket targeted a logistics control center under Hashad al Shaabi.

At present, no statement came from Hashad.

The same time attack on the two bases of the United States and Hashd is unexpected that Washington accuses radical elements within the military network to attack US military bases in Iraq.

This is the latest incident of attacks against US facilities in the country. US sources and a Western diplomat said it is unclear how many rockets were fired.

There is no report of any accident, even now. AFP correspondents heard many noises of explosions of a hovering aircraft near the green zone of high security US embassy.

This is the 19th attack since October 2019, targeting about 5,200 US troops at the embassy of the US or local forces in Iraq.

No one has ever claimed responsibility for the attacks. But the United States has raised doubts about the group backed by Iran Hashd Al Shaabi. In December, a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq.
A few days later, the United States launched attacks against the radical group in Hashad western Iraq. Top General Qasim Suleimani and his right arm from the hand of Iran, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, believed to be his right hand man, were killed in a strike US drone in Baghdad.

The group said Hashad to avenge the deaths.

Hours before Sunday’s attack, Harkat al-Nuzba, a faction backed by Iran Hashad, launched a “countdown” to expel US forces from the country.