New York is America’s Next Major Quake (Revelation 6)

America’s Next Big Quake

Doug Fabrizio

The devastation wrought in Mexico City by a recent massive earthquake may have rattled more than a few nerves along the Wasatch Front. Salt Lake City is, of course, overdue for a significant seismic event. So are other places in the United States, such as Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, even New York City. In a new book, science writer Kathryn Miles tours the country in search of the latest research on America’s next big earthquake and what’s being done to address the threat. She joins us Wednesday to talk about it.

Kathryn Miles is the author of several books, including her newest, Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake [Independent bookstores|Amazon|Audible].

Learn more about predicting earthquakes in Utah and how well the state’s buildings could stand-up to a great shake from KUER’s news team.

The Growing Risk of Nuclear War

An unsettled year in nuclear weapons

By John Mecklin, December 24, 2018

In 2018, the world’s arms control architecture teetered on the brink of collapse as the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and threatened withdrawal from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Negotiations between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program stalled. And Hawaii went through 38 dreadful minutes of believing it was under nuclear missile attack.

The Bulletin’s coverage of these events and many other aspects of the modern nuclear dilemma was truly comprehensive last year. What follows, then, is not a “best of” list, per se, but eight prime examples from the remarkably consistent and excellent offerings our expert authors provided throughout the year. I thank and applaud them all.

Facing nuclear reality, 35 years after The Day After

A special report by Dawn Stover

A comprehensive look at the meaning, in today’s world, of a landmark TV movie, including an interview with Ted Koppel, who led an expert panel discussion after the airing of a film that changed world nuclear history.

Dawn of a new Armageddon

By Cynthia Lazaroff

 The truly gripping account of 38 minutes of chaos that ensued after Hawaii received an all-too-believable warning that it was under what appeared to be a nuclear missile attack.

 

George H.W. Bush worked toward a soft nuclear landing for the dissolving Soviet Union

By Siegfried S. Hecker

How the late president aided the effort to secure the Soviet Union’s nuclear material and scientists as the USSR dissolved.

Expert comment: The INF and the future of arms control

By John Mecklin

A collection of extraordinary experts assesses the import of the Trump administration’s declared interest in leaving the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a foundation of the world’s arms control regime.

Robert Oppenheimer: The myth and the mystery

By Richard Rhodes

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb explains, in brilliant detail, the reality of J. Robert Oppenheimer, in contrast with his portrayal in the opera Dr. Atomic.

 

Under siege: Safety in the nuclear weapons complex

By Robert Alvarez

One of the premier experts on the US nuclear weapons complex explores an Energy Department attack on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which oversees and reports on safety practices in the complex.

Hiroshima & Nagasaki

A collection

Through the decades, the Bulletin has been home to distinguished analysis of the US atomic bombing of two Japanese cities at the end of World War II. This collection provides an authoritative starting point for anyone interested in understanding the lasting meaning of those attacks.

Terrorists Continue to Curse Christ

Anti-Christmas flyer, released by terrorist group Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades in Gaza. (photo credit:” Courtesy)

GAZA TERRORISTS WARN LOCALS: ‘CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS IS EVIL’

By URI BOLLAG

Flyer features a verse from the Quran warning Muslims, “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.”

A flyer featuring a burning Christmas tree and threats in Arabic forbidding the celebration of Christmas was published by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, also known as the Specialty Brigade, in Gaza ahead of the Christian holiday.

A verse from the Quran, quoted on the left side of the flyer, warns Muslims “not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people.” The brigades added that it is “absolutely forbidden” to celebrate the holidays in any capacity.

According to a government source, the flyer was aimed not only at Muslims, but also Arab Christians living in the Strip. The non-governmental organization Freedom House has regularly reported that the political rights and civil liberties of Gaza residents are severely constrained by multiple layers of interference.

The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades is the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of armed Palestinian groups considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, and believed to be the third largest faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The PRC is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks against Israel and has a close relationship with Hezbollah.

The flyer is in contrast to Israel’s efforts to ensure that Christians in Gaza are able to celebrate the holiday.

In a meeting with Christian leaders on December 19, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, head of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), outlined measures the unit will be taking to allow freedom of worship, according to its website. Measures include allowing entrance into Gaza for those wishing to visit their families and permitting more flexible travel, as well as flights abroad via Ben-Gurion Airport. The measures have been in effect since the week prior to Christmas.

There are approximately 1,000 Christians living in the Gaza Strip. Some 600 individuals received special permits for the holidays, a source told The Jerusalem Post.

Russia Expands Her Nuclear Horn

Russia Begins Testing Nuclear Weapon That Can Travel Underwater And ‘Nothing’ Can Stop It, Report Says

By Tom O’Connor On 12/25/18 at 4:13 PM

Moscow has reportedly begun testing an underwater nuclear weapon that has been touted as invincible by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Poseidon, previously known as the Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System and dubbed Kanyon by the U.S.-led NATO Western military alliance, is a state-of-the-art nuclear-capable drone being developed by the Russian armed forces. Citing a defense industry source, the state-run Tass Russian News Agency reported Tuesday that the Russian navy had begun trails for the weapon at sea.

“In the sea area protected from a potential enemy’s reconnaissance means, the underwater trials of the nuclear propulsion unit of the Poseidon drone are underway,” the source said, according to the official outlet.

Russia’s nuclear-capable “doomsday” drone, named Poseidon by Russia and Kanyon by the U.S., is seen in this simulation played by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his state of the nation address, on March 1. RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE

The Poseidon’s true power has never been revealed, but rumors of its existence have swirled among defense circles for years. In September 2015, The Washington Free Beacon cited Pentagon sources as saying Russia was developing submarines armed with “Kanyon” nuclear-capable drones dubbed “city busters,” with “tens” of megaton explosive power and capable of traveling long distances at high speeds. Two months later, Russian state media outlet NTV showed blueprints of a nuclear-capable underwater drone, titled “Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System,” while covering a meeting of officials.

Putin revealed the drone’s existence during his State of the Nation address in March, along with an arsenal of other advanced weapons said capable of thwarting even the most modern defense systems—and many of which were capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads. At the time, he said that Russia had completed its development of “an innovative nuclear power unit” 100 times smaller than existing submarine reactors, but still more powerful and capable of hitting its maximum capacity 200 times faster, while carrying “massive nuclear ordnance.”

“We have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths (I would say extreme depths) intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels, including some of the fastest,” Putin told his federal assembly in March. “It is really fantastic. They are quiet, highly maneuverable and have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit. There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”

The Poseidon received its name later that month after the Russian Defense Ministry held a poll in which users also dubbed the Peresvet laser weapon system and 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.

A number of reports have claimed that the weapon may be capable of producing massive, radioactive tsunamis that would pose a threat to major cities. Some experts have corroborated this theory, although they have questioned the tactical effectiveness of this strategy.

Russia has set out to modernize its strategic and conventional arsenal in response to a perceived threat posed by the U.S. military dominance and development of a global missile shield made possible by Washington’s withdrawal of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2001. President Donald Trump has since threatened to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty banning land-based missile systems ranging from 310 to 3,400 miles, while Moscow has claimed that the Trump administration has not responded to offers to start talks regarding the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Washington has accused the Kremlin of attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor, something Putin and his officials have denied. Though the Republican leader set out to rebuild deteriorating ties between Washington and Moscow upon coming to office, the U.S. has since expanded sanctions against Russia and relations have only worsened between the two leading powers.

New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

How vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?

Ashley Fetters

New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.

The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.

The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.

Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?

Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There’s a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It’s well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”

And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)

Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.

Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

<img src=”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/9936059/8695441677_7fbb2d7d9a_o.jpg&#8221; alt=””>

The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.

MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)

One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”

Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.

And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.

So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?

“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”

Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail tips@curbed.com, and we may include it in a future column.

Trump and His Supervisors are ALL Clueless

Neither Mattis nor Trump Recognizes the Scope of This Fight

By Michael Ledeen December 24, 2018

Like all presidents beginning with Jimmy Carter, President Trump isn’t promoting the downfall of the Iranian regime. He loves sanctions, somehow believes that economic misery will eventually provoke the Iranian people to rise against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchmen, and periodically sends our troops to kill proxies and members of the Revolutionary Guards.

General Mattis did not, so far as I can tell, challenge this policy. He was an outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic when he led Centcom, but he was opposed to Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal, and never, so far as I can tell, called for American support of the ongoing uprising of the Iranian people against the regime.

I am a Marine dad, and I am full of admiration for General/Secretary Mattis’ many fine words warning of the Iranian threat to us, as well as his outstanding leadership on the Iraqi battlefield. But I have been disappointed by his lack of action against the mullahs.

It should be obvious that an effective Syria policy must include defeating Iran — Syria, and also Lebanon, are run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards — and I was dismayed and surprised that Mattis’ resignation letter did not deal with Iran. I am afraid this means that Mattis agrees with Trump that we should not challenge Tehran. Like the president, Mattis seems to favor some sort of deal. So while I am impressed by the dignity and coherence of his resignation, I am not impressed with his policy views, any more than I was when he called John Kerry “valiant” in a public conversation with a CNN talking head at the Aspen Institute.

Nor do I admire Mattis’ — and Trump’s, and Pompeo’s, and most of the pundits’ and journalists’ — failure to see the world for what it is. How often have you heard warnings that the withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan will make war more likely? They don’t seem to realize that the war is on, right here and now. Nor do they see that it’s a global war, and that we face a coalition of radical Islamist and radical Leftist regimes, from China and North Korea and Cuba to Russia, Iran, Turkey and Venezuela. Our enemies, who fear and despise freedom, are well aware that this is a big war. Listen to the Taliban, as quoted by my fine colleagues Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn:

For years, the Taliban and al Qaeda have told their followers that victory is on the horizon. “Verily, Allah has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled,” Mullah Omar has been quoted as saying.

More recently, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri claimed that the Taliban’s resurrected Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will be the “nucleus” of a new caliphate.

Such is the importance that Osama bin Laden’s successor has placed on the Afghan jihad. Similarly, the leader of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Asim Umar, predicted in 2017 that Trump’s “America First” policy meant that America would retreat from Afghanistan, thereby signaling the loss of its global leadership position.

Today, their predictions look prophetic.

More Rioting Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Arab rioters on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on Oct. 12. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Gazans Riot on Land and at Sea

By Dov Benovadiaי”ז טבת תשע”ט

YERUSHALAYIM

Thousands of Gaza Arabs rioted Monday night at several points along the border fence, as dozens of boats attempted to breach the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Riots occurred near Zikim, adjacent to the eastern border of Gaza just a few kilometers from Ashkelon, and at the Erez crossing.

Israeli forces responded to rock throwing and numerous attacks using firebombs with anti-riot measures. Gaza sources said that 14 rioters were injured.

Israel was redoubling its forces in the south, after Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that this coming Friday would be “a day of great testing for the enemy.” On the weekend, the terror groups threatened to increase attacks against Israel, after four rioters died Friday after attacking Israeli soldiers. The IDF is concerned that Hamas could stage riots even before Friday, hence the buildup of forces in the south.

Israeli sources told Channel 20 that if the terror groups once again began shooting missiles at Israel, the IDF’s response would be “harsh and powerful. We will not allow a repeat of the recent events” in which Gaza terrorists shot nearly 500 missiles at Israel withing several days. “The response will not be ‘measured’ this time, but will be a harsh strike at Hamas.”

On Tuesday, security officials arrested seven Arab residents of Yerushalayim for throwing firebombs at civilians and security personnel. The seven were all youths between 15 and 20 years of age. Besides firebombs, the gang threw firecrackers and other dangerous explosives at Israeli vehicles and at the light rail. Police plan to ask for an extension of their remand.

Overnight Monday, security officials said they arrested 5 wanted security suspects in other areas in Yehudah and Shomron. The suspects were wanted for participating in rioting and throwing stones and firebombs that endangered Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Several of the suspects were also charged with belonging to Hamas. All were being questioned on their activities by security forces.

Israel Struggles to Control Syria (Revelation 11:2)

FILE PHOTO: Surface-to-air missile fire lights up the sky over Damascus as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria, April 14, 2018. Hassan Ammar,AP

Israel Says Missile Fired From Syria Intercepted; Reports of IDF Strikes Near Damascus

Sound of loud explosions reported in Damascus ■ Iranian and Hezbollah arms depots reportedly targeted ■ Incident comes days after Netanyahu said may expand military action after U.S. pullout from Syria

Jack Khoury

Yaniv Kubovich

Noa Shpigel

Israel struck an arms depot west Syria’s capital city of Damascus from Lebanese airspace, Syrian state media reported late Tuesday night. According to reports three soldiers were wounded in the attack which aimed at Hezbollah depots.

“The aggression originated from above the Lebanese territories and a number of hostile targets were downed,” Syrian TV added. SANA state media reported that missiles were indeed intercepted.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the targets were arms depots that belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their allies, the Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah.

The Israeli military spokesman said shortly after that an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria was intercepted by Israeli air defense systems.

Residents in the area of northern city of Hadera, south of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, reported seeing a trail in the sky, and residents of Hefer Valley Regional Council, between Netanya and Hadera, reported hearing a loud explosion.

The sound of loud explosions also echoed through Syrian capital city of Damascus, a witness told DPA.

Syrian air defense activity near Damascus, December 25, 2018. SANA

Residents in the area also said that explosions took place around the Al Mezzeh Military Airport west of the capital, reportedly targeted by Israel before, and in the areas of Kesawa and Jimraya, which are located north-west of Damascus.

The residents added that there were at least two rounds of strikes in Kesawa and Jimraya.

Lebanese residents near the border with neighbouring Syria said the sound of planes could be heard in the sky, hinting that Israeli planes were using Lebanese airspace to hit targets inside Syria.

Lebanese state-run National News Agency said Israeli war planes performed mock raids above southern Lebanon, and other media outlets reported that residents near the border with neighboring Syria said the sound of planes could be heard in the sky.

The incident comes two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the American military withdrawal from Syria will not affect Israel’s policy toward the war-torn country.

“The decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy: We will continue to act against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

Also on Sunday, the Israeli army said soldiers fired toward several gunmen approaching Israel’s border with Syria in the Golan Heights. No Israeli forces were wounded and it is unclear whether the gunmen were hit.

In an abrupt policy shift, U.S. President Donald Trump announced last week that Washington would withdraw the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, upending a pillar of American policy in the Middle East and alarming U.S. allies.

The decision was followed on Thursday by the surprise departure of U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who in a resignation letter to Trump laid bare the growing divide between the two over foreign policy.

“I would like to reassure those who are concerned. Our cooperation with the U.S. will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: Operations, intelligence and many other security spheres,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot also commented on Trump’s decision Sunday, saying it is “significant,” but should not be overblown.

“The Russian presence in Syria since the end of 2015 created a new situation,” Eisenkot told a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

“It required us to enter a dialogue to create a system to prevent friction, and it has been a factor affecting how we have used force. Through the entire period, I as chief of staff have felt that there has been an understanding regarding Israel’s security needs.”

Although Russia and Israel established a system to avoid friction between Israeli aircraft operating in Syria and Russian military planes in the area,  a Russian aircraft was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles during an Israeli airstrike in September. The Russians blamed Israel for the mishaps, a claim that Israel vigorously denied.

A former head of military intelligence said in November that Israeli strikes on Syria “have been cut almost to zero” since the Russian plane was shot down. Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, interviewed on Radio 103, said Iran was “changing tactics” and has been reducing its presence in Syria in favor of Iraq and Lebanon.

“Apart from the Russians’ anger with us, I assume they also passed stern messages to the Iranians,” he said. “Russia’s strategy is to stabilize Syria, and Iran was disrupting that by developing its precision missile facilities.”

Russia announced it had delivered the S-300 air defense system to Syria in October. That came after the September 17 downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane by Syrian forces responding to an Israeli airstrike, a friendly fire incident that stoked regional tensions.

AP, DPA and Reuters contributed to this report.

Protests to Continue Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Great March of Return protests to continue until end of Gaza siege: Hamas

Sun Dec 23, 2018 10:19PM [Updated: Mon Dec 24, 2018 02:34AM ]

Palestinian protesters use slingshots in a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with occupied territories, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A senior official of the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, says Palestinians will continue the Great March of Return rallies until the end of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and a member of its leadership in the Gaza Strip, made the remarks in a Sunday interview with Iran’s Al-Alam News Network in Tehran.

He said the anti-occupation rallies, known as the “Great March of Return,” have produced important results, and will not be stopped before the Israeli regime’s siege on the enclave is lifted.

Tensions have been running high near the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories since March 30, which marked the start of the protests.

Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

The clashes in Gaza reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, which coincided this year with Washington’s relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

More than 220 Palestinians have so far been killed and over 20,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gaza Health Ministry.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.

PressTV-‘54 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces since Jan.’

A report shows the Israeli regime’s forces have killed 54 Palestinian children and arrested over 900 during this year.

Friday to be decisive day for Israel

The military wings of Hamas warned in a joint statement on Sunday that the coming Friday will be “decisive” in determining their response to the killing of four people during recent border protests.

The groups declared they had prepared retaliation steps, and that their use will be dependent upon Israel’s policy.

It will be “a decisive day in examining the Zionist enemy’s behavior and intentions toward our people in the March of Return,” the Sunday statement said.

The deaths were “a total crime and clear recklessness by the Zionist enemy,” which has “crossed red lines,” they continued, as reported by Israeli media.

“Regarding these crimes, the resistance will not act lightly with the enemy and stand by idly,” the statement warned.

The statement came after several Palestinians, including a teenage, were shot dead by Israeli fire and nearly fifty others sustained injuries during the latest Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

PressTV-Israeli forces shoot dead three, wound dozens in Gaza

Over 220 Palestinians have been killed since they began weekly border protests on March 30.

Iran main backer of Palestinians

In his interview with Al-Alam, al-Zahar further described Iran as the main supporter of Palestinians, and said Hamas does not do anything without consulting with Iran over the issue.

Al-Zahar made the remarks during his visit to Tehran at the head of a delegation of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Parliament.

He earlier held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani as well as Ali Akbar Velayati a senior advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

In the meeting with al-Zahar, Zarif once again reiterated the Islamic Republic’s principled policy to support Palestine, urging all countries in the Muslim world to boost their unity to defend the Palestinian cause.

“We hope that some Muslim countries that have pinned their hopes on the support of the Zionists and the US will return to the Muslim world and realize that Zionists are not a trustworthy friend or partner for anybody,” Zarif said.

The Iranian foreign minister added that efforts to counter the Palestinian resistance are unfortunately being made from inside the Muslim world, saying that all countries and Islamic movements are also under such pressure.

PressTV-Support for Palestine, Iran’s principled policy: Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif says support for Palestine is among the Islamic Republic’s principled policies.

For his part, Zahar hailed Iran’s real support for Palestine and expressed hope that the Palestinian people’s resistance and the Muslim world’s support would put an end to the Zionist project as soon as possible.

Back in May, Ayatollah Khamenei said resistance is the sole way to save the oppressed Palestinian nation.

Ayatollah Khamenei reaffirmed Iran’s unwavering support for Palestine and Palestinian fighters, noting that strengthening the resistance front in the Muslim world and intensifying the fight against the occupying regime of Israel and its supporters were the solution to the Palestinian issue.

Trump’s Legitimate Nuclear Option

Trump can launch nuclear weapons whenever he wants, with or without Mattis

Dec. 23, 2018

Bruce Blair and Jon Wolfsthal, The Washington Post

The abrupt and pointed resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Thursday alarmed official Washington. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., called him an “an island of stability amid the chaos of the Trump administration.” Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told The Washington Post that “having Mattis there gave all of us a great deal more comfort than we have now.”

Mattis’ departure seems to be provoking unease, especially considering how dangerous our nuclear-command arrangements are. The notion that Mattis, a former four-star Marine Corps general, could have blocked or defied a move by Trump to impulsively launch nuclear weapons may have seemed comforting, but it shouldn’t have been. The secretary of defense has no legal position in the nuclear chain of command, and any attempts by a secretary of defense to prevent the president from exercising the authority to use nuclear weapons would be undemocratic and illegal. With or without Mattis, the president has unchecked and complete authority to launch nuclear weapons based on his sole discretion.

The reaction to Mattis’ resignation, however, could open the door for the new Congress to create long-overdue legal barriers preventing the president from initiating a nuclear strike. Such a step could be implemented without any negative impact on U.S. security or that of our allies.

Every day, the U.S. nuclear early warning system is triggered by some event or another, mostly civilian and military rocket launches by one or more of a dozen countries with ballistic missiles. When such launches appear to threaten North America, the head of U.S. Strategic Command is alerted, and sometimes these alerts warrant the urgent notification of the president. That alert comes by way of a direct call from the Strategic Command or via the White House Situation Room, the emergency-operations bunker beneath the East Wing, or the national security adviser. Partly a remnant of the Cold War, this system remains in place today to ensure the president can be notified quickly of any direct threat to the United States’ nuclear arsenal and the facilities that control it. That way, he can launch nuclear missiles before they are destroyed or the U.S. government is incapacitated by incoming weapons.

In normal times, this system is precarious, and it can pressure even experienced leaders to consider nuclear weapons in a crisis sooner than warranted. Alerts stemming from ambiguous ballistic nuclear missile threats occurred multiple times during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and some alerts went directly to those presidents.

Yet, this system seems especially ill-suited to a president who has demonstrated time and again that he can be provoked into taking rash action, and who, as a candidate, openly questioned why the United States could not use the nuclear weapons it possesses. This is a dangerous set of instincts for a commander in chief with sole and unchecked authority over almost 4,000 nuclear weapons, nearly 1,000 of which could be fired within a few minutes.

For over a year, Mattis has been trying to reassure congressional leaders that he could help check some of Trump’s impulses, in part by intervening in the nuclear chain of command. In a break with normal procedures, Mattis reportedly told the commander of the Strategic Command to keep him directly informed of any event that might lead to a nuclear alert being sent to the president. He even told the Strategic Command “not to put on a pot of coffee without letting him know.”

Congressional leaders interpreted this to mean that Mattis would either deal with a possible threat before it reached Trump or ensure he was present to advise Trump when such an alert arrived.

This assurance may have helped ease concerns about our nuclear weapons for some members of Congress, but only if they were unfamiliar with how the command and control structure truly works. Personal relationships and back channels are no way to manage a nuclear arsenal.

Even informed observers are surprised to learn the president can order the use of nuclear weapons without the input – or consent – of the secretaries of Defense or State, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the vice president. They only have a role in the presidential launch protocol if the president has given prior approval for them to be notified and solicits their advice. Otherwise, none of these people would need to be involved or informed that the president has decided to use a nuclear weapon.

Under standard procedure, an attempt would be made to contact key national security officials, but in some real-world and exercise scenarios, it has proven impossible to tie them into a quickly convened emergency teleconference. Should he wish, the president could exclude all of them, and even bypass the primary designated adviser – the four-star general in charge of U.S. strategic forces – by ordering a low-ranking on-duty emergency operations officer at the Pentagon or elsewhere to transmit a launch order directly to the executing commanders of strategic U.S. submarines, silo-based missiles and bombers.

Trump could have learned all this in a briefing about nuclear weapons shortly after he took office, and his military aide, ever at his side, could explain and assist in issuing a direct order to a lower-level officer at any time.

Even if Mattis had been with Trump at a time of nuclear crisis, his resignation letter drives home the fact that Trump might very well have simply ignored his counsel. Trump, as he is proving in stark terms, listens only to himself. And any attempt by another person to physically block the president from issuing a launch order would probably result in his or her removal by the Secret Service. It is delusional and fundamentally undemocratic to think that our strongest check on a president bent on initiating nuclear war without justifiable cause might be a defense secretary trying to keep the president from communicating his launch authority using the so-called Gold Codes.

When the United States faced the prospect of sudden nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, this system helped reinforce deterrence based on a balance of nuclear terror. But since the demise of the U.S.S.R., and even with a more aggressive Russia, the whole arrangement raises questions about its necessity, risks and consistency with democratic values. It is well past time for the system to be reformed to ensure that it hews to our Constitution and mitigates as much as possible the very real risks associated with a renewed arms competition with Russia.

One key issue is whether Trump – or any president – should have the legal ability to independently initiate the use of nuclear weapons. It seems reasonable that the president needs to be able to quickly order a nuclear response if an adversary employs nuclear weapons first against us, and that he would not have time to consult with Congress or the Cabinet if nuclear missiles were headed here. (The flight time of ballistic missiles over intercontinental distances is 30 minutes or less, and the president would have only about five to seven minutes to decide whether and how to respond.)

However, our chain of command is not just a presidential preference – it can be determined by legislative action. Congress can and should prohibit any president from using nuclear weapons first. The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., proposed such legislation last year. It states that it is the policy of the United States not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. Congress could make any first-use illegal, constraining the president from issuing such an order and obligating any member of the military to disobey a command to do so. A no-first-use policy would also ratchet down tensions with Russia and facilitate reductions in the number and types of nuclear weapons in both U.S. and Russian arsenals. The logic and political salience of this position is growing, with some 20 members of the incoming Congress – including House Speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. – now on record supporting no first use.

Legislation to bar first use probably wouldn’t get through the Republican Senate or be signed into law by Trump. But recognition that the system puts too much power in the hands of one person increases the likelihood that the next president will either adopt such a posture or accept legislative controls. Maintaining an outdated and unstable system is clearly too dangerous.

Bending norms and the military chain of command to prevent a disastrous presidential decision is not a reliable safeguard, and extralegal measures should not be how the United States prevents a nuclear war. Neither Mattis nor anyone else can reassure the American people that a president will not, on a whim, use the most fearsome weapons humans have ever invented. Only laws can constrain such a dangerous prospect. It is well past time for our country to take control of the nuclear chain of command.

Blair is a research scholar in Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security and a founder of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Wolfsthal is a former senior director at the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation. He is now a senior adviser to Global Zero in Washington.