The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/2004/images/ramapo_factsheet_img_0.gif

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.

After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.

Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.

During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.

“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”

Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.

Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.

After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.

Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.

Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.

The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.

For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.

Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”

The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.

This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”

Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”

But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.

Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.

All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.

For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.

Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.

To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.

In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.

As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)

In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.

The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).

Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.

Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.

This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.

For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)

All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.

Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”

***********************

For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.

In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.

Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”

Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.

This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”

A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.

“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”

Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Iran About to Cross the Redline (Revelation 6:6)

Iran may have been behind attack on Iraq’s Balad base: U.S. State Dept official

Friday, December 06, 2019 1:38 p.m. CST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran may have been behind Thursday’s attack on Iraq’s Balad air base, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday, but added that Washington was awaiting further evidence.

Iraqi military on Thursday said that two Katyusha rockets landed inside Balad air base, which hosts U.S. forces and contractors and is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

No casualties or damages were reported in the attack for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“We’re waiting for full evidence, but if past is prologue then there’s a good chance that Iran was behind it,” David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters in a briefing.

On Tuesday, five rockets landed on Ain Al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces in Anbar province in western Iraq without causing any casualties.

Schenker called the increasing attacks something of “great concern,” and said Iran has become more aggressive over the past five to six months.

“The Iranians often times, or have certainly in the past, taken aggressive action when they feel under pressure,” he said.

The United States ratcheted up economic sanctions against Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and world powers to choke Iran’s oil exports and isolate its economy.

In response, Tehran has remained defiant and rolled back commitments it made under the 2015 deal aimed at keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran also has been angry over a lack of European protection from U.S. sanctions.

Some analysts have warned that cornering Tehran could make it more aggressive. Tensions in the Gulf in recent months have spiked after attacks on oil tankers and a September air strike on Saudi oil facilities, which the United States blamed on Iran, but that Tehran has denied.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Drone Bombs Home of the Antichrist

Drone bombs home of prominent Iraqi cleric as protests death toll rises

Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has backed the anti-government protests, was reportedly outside the country at the time of the attack

A drone dropped a bomb on the home of prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf early on Saturday, but he was not in the country, sources within his party told AFP news agency.

Sadr has backed protests against corruption, unemployment and a lack of public services that have rocked Baghdad and the country’s south since the beginning of October.

The drone attack came one day after he sent his supporters into the streets of the capital overnight to “protect protesters,” after unidentified gunmen attacked a protest camp, killing at least 23 people, including three police officers.

The attack took place late on Friday, when armed men took over a large building that protesters had been occupying for several weeks near al-Sinek bridge in the capital.

Witnesses told AFP news agency that gunmen in pick-up trucks attacked the building and forced the protesters from it.

More than 127 others were wounded by the gunfire and stabbings targeting anti-government protesters near Tahrir Square, police and medical sources told Reuters news agency.

It was not immediately clear if the gunmen belonged to any political or militia groups.

Protesters had feared an escalation of violence after supporters of the pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force descended on Tahrir Square on Thursday.

Three demonstrators and a witness told the Associated Press that at least 15 knife attacks took place in Tahrir Square, and that the pro-militia groups withdrew from the area later that day.

More than 430 demonstrators have been killed and tens of thousands wounded in a crackdown by Iraq’s security forces since the start of the uprising.

Last week, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he would resign amid the months-long protest movement. Yet the announcement has done little to quell the protests.

On Friday, the United States blacklisted three Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary leaders over their alleged role in the deaths of anti-government protesters. Washington said the sanctions were part of an effort to counter Iranian influence in Iraq.

Russia Aligns Against Iran (Daniel 7)

Russia suspends project with Iran due to uranium enrichment

By By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Dec 05, 2019 | 3:00 PM

MOSCOW

A Russian state company suspended a research project with Iran because of its decision to resume enriching uranium, a move a senior official said Thursday was necessary after the U.S. canceled a waiver to allow the joint venture.

The TVEL company said in a statement that Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility makes it impossible to convert the facility to produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes.

Iran agreed to stop uranium enrichment under a 2015 deal with world powers to prevent it from building a bomb, but it has resumed such activities after the U.S. pulled out of the pact last year and imposed new sanctions.

TVEL’s suspension apparently reflects Moscow’s attempt to distance itself from the Iranian nuclear activities that violate the 2015 agreement to avoid the U.S. penalties. It comes after a U.S. announcement last month that the waiver allowing foreign companies to work at Fordo will end Dec. 15.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the U.S. pressure “created a difficult environment” for Russia and other participants in the pact. He said in remarks carried by the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is suspending its participation in the project to “analyze the possibilities and potential negative consequences of the American measures” but not stopping it altogether.

The Russian announcement comes a day before consultations in Vienna between Iran and the world powers involved in the deal.

Russian officials have been walking a fine line on the issue, voicing concern about the Iranian decision while also describing it as stemming from the U.S. decision to spike the deal and raise pressure on Tehran.

Last month, Ryabkov, Russia’s point-man on the Iranian nuclear deal, insisted that the project at Fordo would continue despite the resumption of uranium enrichment, noting that the Iranian move is technologically reversible.

But in its statement, TVEL argued that uranium enrichment is technologically incompatible with production of medical isotopes.

It said that Iran would need to disassemble the centrifuges currently used to enrich uranium and decontaminate the room for the medical research project to continue. Iranian officials have said it could reverse its enrichment moves if Europe offers a way for it to avoid U.S. sanctions choking off its crude oil sales abroad.

The Russian company, which makes nuclear fuel components, said it had informed Iran of its decision.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.

Last month, Iran announced that it was resuming uranium enrichment at Fordo, a heavily fortified facility inside a mountain ringed by anti-aircraft batteries that has over 1,000 centrifuges.

Under the 2015 deal, Russia and Iran were supposed to work together to turn Fordo into a research center to produce radioactive isotopes of tellurium and xenon for medical use. It was monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency , the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran limit its enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The West feared Iran could use its program to build a nuclear weapon; Iran insists the program is for peaceful purposes.

The concern is that the more uranium Iran enriches, the sooner it will have enough material to make an atomic weapon. Analysts had put that lag time at a year if Iran abided by the 2015 deal’s restrictions.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Russia is Preparing for the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

Say What? Why Russia Keeps Practicing Nuclear War

In October 2019, Russia engaged in what was apparently its largest announced strategic nuclear strike exercise in its history, Thunder (Grom)–2019. The exercise had many of the usual features of Russian large strategic nuclear exercises: personal involvement by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in authorizing simulated nuclear strikes; a reported escalation scenario with Russian first use of nuclear weapons; large numbers of live nuclear missile launches; and a reported ending of a massive Russian nuclear strike.[1] As usual, Russian strategic air defenses also played a role in Thunder-2019.[2] The Russian Defense Ministry said that “The exercise was designed to test “the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression.”[3] (Emphasis added). This is probably the most candid description of the content of a nuclear exercise since the Zapid-1999 exercise in which Russia, for the first time, announced nuclear first use.[4] The literal meaning of the statement “the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression” is strategic nuclear preemption. Nuclear weapons’ use in an exercise against the “threat of aggression” is not deterrence or retaliation but pre-emptive first use. Russian Defense Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu stated that the exercise employed high-precision nuclear weapons. These were probably low-yield since few targets require high-precision, high-yield nuclear weapons.

The Thunder-2019 strategic nuclear exercise was reportedly the largest of its class.[5] The announced duration was three days rather than the usual one.[6] It continued the trend toward an increased number of live nuclear missile launches.[7] This was the first large nuclear exercise in which there were intermediate-range Kalibr cruise missiles and 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile launches, which will be discussed below.[8] Neither the U.S. nor any NATO state has counterparts for these weapons, so there is little likelihood they were being used in response to the U.S. or NATO first use. Even if we had comparable weapons, the probability we would use them in a conventional war would be close to zero.

According to noted Russian journalist Alexander Golts, “We’re talking about rehearsing ways to conduct all-out nuclear war. Such a war will start with the use of non-strategic forces (cruise missiles) and end with a mass nuclear strike, which will mean the death of everything living on Planet Earth,” and there was no room for “misinterpretation” about this.[9] Setting aside his hyperbole about wiping out the human race (the savage Russian nuclear targeting in an all-out nuclear war could exterminate hundreds of millions of people, not billions), he is very perceptive.

Noted Russian journalist Pavel Felgenhauer observed while Russia stages a large strategic exercise every year, “The main difference this time, compared to earlier years, was the unprecedented level of public relations promotion of Grom 2019, reflecting the growing importance of nuclear deterrence in Russian internal and external policies.”[10] The amount of information released by the Russian Defense Ministry on the scope of the exercise was unprecedented. The Russian military also announced the details before the exercise, something that had never happened before.[11] The exercise involved the majority of Russian ICBM launchers.[12] This either never happened before or has happened but has never been revealed by the Russian government or in Russian press reports. It is unclear which of these alternatives is of greater concern.

According to Major General Yevgeny Ilyin at a Ministry of Defense briefing, the Grom-2019 exercises:

…will involve military units of the Strategic Missile Forces, long-range and military transport aviation commands, military units of the Western, Southern, Central and Eastern Military Districts, as well as the Northern Fleet.

This is by far the most detailed description of a major strategic nuclear exercise made by the Russian Defense Ministry. Normally these exercises are not even given names in public announcements much less described in terms of an order of battle. While Russian Ministry of Defense public statements about Strategic Missile Force (RVSN) only exercises have occasionally stated the number of ICBM launchers involved, this has never been the case in the large nuclear exercises. The announced Strategic Missile Force component was over two-thirds of the estimate of about 300 deployed ICBMs.[14] Russia’s September 2019 New START Treaty data indicate Russia had 513 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers.[15] According to the Russian statement quoted above, at least 250 ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers participated in Thunder-2019.

On October 17th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that “…crews of Iskander operational-tactical missile complex launched of (sic!) cruise missiles at the training grounds of the Southern and Eastern Military Districts.”[16] A video released by the Russian Defense Ministry reportedly shows the launching of the SSC-8/9M729, the intermediate-range missile that violated the INF Treaty.[17]

The same day Thunder-2019 started, the Russian Defense Ministry announced, “Over 8,000 missile and artillery troops held a simultaneous live-fire exercise at 30 training ranges in Southern Russia.”[18] This was likely part of the Thunder-2019 exercise. It was probably announced as a separate exercise to evade the legal notification requirements relating to military exercises in Europe. The Iskander missiles (owned by the Missile and Artillery Force) were used in Thunder-2019.[19] Since the Missile and Artillery Force own a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons than announced for the exercise (including Close Range Missiles and nuclear artillery),[20] it is possible that a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons was used than was announced.

Even more ominous, Felgenhauer reported that “Practically all the RVSN intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) involved in Grom 2019 mimicked going through their launch sequences.”[21] While this is the first time we have a detailed official order of battle for a Russian large strategic nuclear exercise, it seems consistent with the previous press reports that the Russian strategic nuclear exercises ended with a massive Russian nuclear strike.[22] For example, in the 2010 large strategic nuclear exercise, there was a Russian press report that Russia had “simulated hundreds of missile launches and, “Throughout the world, the mushroom clouds rose skyward.”[23]

The involvement of nuclear-capable non-strategic strike aircraft in the exercises is not clear. General Ilyin stated that 105 aircraft (100 of them were not strategic bombers but not otherwise identified) and 10 airbases were involved but provided no other detail.[24] Hence, there may have been the involvement of air-launched non-strategic nuclear weapons since this is one of Russia’s major nuclear assets.[25]

Of course, the ICBM and SLBM launches, real and simulated, were apparently targeted on the U.S. because of their range and because they are no longer really needed against peripheral targets due to Russian deployment of ground-launched and ship-launched cruise missiles. The nuclear cruise missile launches, based on the locations of the fleets involved, appear to have been mainly targeted on Europe. Actual launches in the Far East Military District and Kalibr launches from submarines and surface ships from the Pacific Ocean[26] were obviously targeted against Far Eastern facilities, possibly including Japan and South Korea, in light of the range of these missiles. Russian Tu-95 heavy bombers reportedly launched legacy Soviet Kh-55 nuclear-only long-range cruise missiles.[27] Since the launch was from the Arctic, they likely were simulating attacks against the U.S.[28]

The Russians announced that the exercise would involve weapons based on “new physical principles.”[29] What these are we do not know from open sources. The suggestion that this was a reference to hypersonic weapons does not make sense. First, weapons based on “other physical principles” is a term used in the former ABM Treaty to describe directed energy weapons. Secondly, Russia apparently did not have any operational naval hypersonic weapons at the time of the exercise. The only hypersonic missile known to be operational, the Kinzhal, was Air Force, not Navy, and the first launch of a Kinzhal from the Arctic didn’t happen until about six weeks after the Thunder-2019 exercise.[30] Moreover, in November 2019, President Putin characterized “weapons based on new principles of physics” as a different category from hypersonic missiles.[31] “New physical principles” weapons are clearly known unknowns.

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses.Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Iran is Enabling the Iraqi Horn With Nukes

Image result for short range missiles iran

Reports: Iran is secretly transporting missiles into Iraq that may have nuclear capability

Phil Shiver

Iran has been taking advantage of recent political unrest in Iraq by secretly stockpiling short-range missiles inside the country, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

The buildup is part of Iran’s widening effort to assert dominance in the Middle East and could pose a threat to American troops as well as allies in the region such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, U.S. sources told the Times.

Both Iraq and Iran have been gripped by deadly protests in recent months, with more than 1,000 people reported dead as a result of protests in Iran. But public unrest has not seemed to slow Iranian leadership down from engaging in what the Times calls a “shadow war.”

Iran has been attacking countries in the Middle East of late but disguising the origin to diminish the chances of counterattacks. Iran’s stockpiling of short-range missiles in Iraq also serves as a strategic deterrent. If Iran were to face an attack, it could potentially strike back with the missiles stored outside its borders.

The missiles have an estimated range of 600 miles and are capable of reaching Jerusalem from outside Baghdad.

The missiles might be nuclear-capable

The same day that the news broke, a letter was released from the French, German, and British ambassadors to the United Nations alleging that Iran now has nuclear-capable missiles.

According to CNN, in the letter, “the ambassadors listed four examples of activity indicating nuclear-capable missiles, adding that ‘Iran’s developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and related technologies is inconsistent’ with a UN resolution restraining the country from doing so.”

The U.N. resolution the letter cited endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of in 2018 but which is still supported by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia.

The letter cited footage of a flight test for a new Shahab-3 ballistic missile — which has a range of about 600 miles — equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle that makes it “technically capable” of delivering a nuclear weapon.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has denied the allegation on social media.

These moves come amid a growing presence of U.S. military in the Middle East. About 14,000 troops have been sent to the region since May, and reports Wednesday said that the Trump administration is considering sending 14,000 more, though the Pentagon has denied the claim.

The Antichrist To Pick The Next PM … Again

Anti-government protesters in Baghdad. The protest movement has no leader to put forward © AFP via Getty Images

Iraq faces familiar impasse in hunt for new prime minister

Protests and fractured politics complicate selection of Abdul Mahdi’s successor

Iraq needs a new prime minister following the resignation of Adel Abdul Mahdi but so far no one seems to want the job.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the country’s biggest parliamentary bloc, has said he does not want to nominate a candidate. The nebulous protest movement that brought down Mr Abdul Mahdi’s government has no leader to put forward. And those establishment figures mooted as possible successors since the prime minister stepped down last week have been quickly dismissed by the public.

Selecting a prime minister under the political system installed in Iraq following the US-led removal of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 has always been difficult. Parliamentary elections have never delivered a majority to any one party and the largest group must build support for a governing coalition by trading cabinet positions. After elections in 2018, it took six months and the tacit endorsement of both Iran and the US to select Mr Abdul Mahdi. This time, experts said, it is expected to be even harder.

“I don’t see anyone in his right mind would want to be prime minister in Iraq for the next few months,” said Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative.

Any new prime minister will face a furious anti-establishment protest movement which, after 16 years of largely ineffective government, is calling for wholesale change.

“Our main problem is the parties and the system and the wrong management mechanism of the state,” said Moussa, a 29-year-old activist from the southern province of Nasiriya that last week suffered the worst day of the violence in two months of protests. The anti-government movement was not just about removing “a corrupt minister or PM”, he said.

Whoever will be prime minister will be [Iran’s] friend. Iran is one step or more ahead of the US in that case

Abbas Kadhim, Atlantic Council

At least 400 people have been killed since October as security forces have responded to the demonstrations with a brutal crackdown. The protesters say they are fed up with government corruption and foreign influence. They are demanding changes to the election law, which they believe is skewed to benefit the existing political parties, a new electoral commission, and fresh elections.

Against the backdrop of public rage, Mr Sadr’s Sairoon political group, the self-declared largest parliamentary bloc, has said it does not want to participate in any negotiations to select the next prime minister.

According to Dhiaa al-Asadi, political adviser to Mr Sadr, Sairoon is stepping back because it “believes that the political parties are still insisting on choosing the prime minister themselves, which is in contrast to what people are calling for.” Mr Asadi said Mr Sadr will back whichever candidate protesters appear to support.

But gauging public support for any potential leader will be near impossible given the lack of any formal leadership structure around the demonstrations, analysts said.

Familiar figures from Iraq’s political scene, including former oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Olom and outspoken member of parliament Izzat al-Shahbandar, have been floated as potential successors in the past few days but do not meet the protesters criteria for fresh leadership.

The result is likely to be a drawn-out political impasse and “a very cruel winter for Iraq” if Baghdad’s elites fail to compromise and protesters stay on the streets, said the Atlantic Council’s Mr Kadhim.

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Iranian officials are already reported to be visiting Iraqi political leaders as they try to hash out deals. But perceptions of Iranian interference will do little to build broad-based support for a new leader. Iran brokered the deal that brought Mr Abdul Mahdi to power and then became a focus of the protest movement’s anger when demonstrators attacked Tehran’s diplomatic outposts in the cities of Najaf and Karbala.

“The involvement of Mr Soleimani is making things more complicated,” said a senior Iraqi official, referring to Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite overseas unit. “It looks like there is no brain in Iraq, just Soleimani,” he said.

Washington and Tehran have vied for influence in Iraq for decades but analysts say Iran now commands greater sway. “Whoever will be prime minister will be [Iran’s] friend,” said Dr Kadhim. “Iran is one step or more ahead of the US in that case.”

Sairoon’s Mr Sadr is currently in Iran, undertaking a period of religious study in the holy city of Qom, though the Iraqi leader has publicly distanced himself from the government in Tehran.

His adviser, Mr Asadi, said he was still watching events in Iraq closely. Mr Sadr’s absence from the process “doesn’t mean he will not have a veto if these names are not acceptable to the protesters”, he said.

Additional reporting by Asmaa al-Omar

Pakistan Prepared to Nuke India (Revelation 8 )

Kyle Mizokami

The National Interest

Key point: South Asia is one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear-weapons zones.

Sandwiched between Iran, China, India and Afghanistan, Pakistan lives in a complicated neighborhood with a variety of security issues. One of the nine known states known to have nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and doctrine are continually evolving to match perceived threats. A nuclear power for decades, Pakistan is now attempting to construct a nuclear triad of its own, making its nuclear arsenal resilient and capable of devastating retaliatory strikes.

Pakistan’s nuclear program goes back to the 1950s, during the early days of its rivalry with India. President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said in 1965, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

The program became a higher priority after the country’s 1971 defeat at the hands of India, which caused East Pakistan to break away and become Bangladesh. Experts believe the humiliating loss of territory, much more than reports that India was pursuing nuclear weapons, accelerated the Pakistani nuclear program. India tested its first bomb, codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” in May 1974, putting the subcontinent on the road to nuclearization.

Pakistan began the process of accumulating the necessary fuel for nuclear weapons, enriched uranium and plutonium. The country was particularly helped by one A. Q. Khan, a metallurgist working in the West who returned to his home country in 1975 with centrifuge designs and business contacts necessary to begin the enrichment process. Pakistan’s program was assisted by European countries and a clandestine equipment-acquisition program designed to do an end run on nonproliferation efforts. Outside countries eventually dropped out as the true purpose of the program became clear, but the clandestine effort continued.

Exactly when Pakistan had completed its first nuclear device is murky. Former president Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar Bhutto’s daughter, claimed that her father told her the first device was ready by 1977. A member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission said design of the bomb was completed in 1978 and the bomb was “cold tested”—stopping short of an actual explosion—in 1983.

Benazir Bhutto later claimed that Pakistan’s bombs were stored disassembled until 1998, when India tested six bombs in a span of three days. Nearly three weeks later, Pakistan conducted a similar rapid-fire testing schedule, setting off five bombs in a single day and a sixth bomb three days later. The first device, estimated at twenty-five to thirty kilotons, may have been a boosted uranium device. The second was estimated at twelve kilotons, and the next three as sub-kiloton devices.

The sixth and final device appears to have also been a twelve-kiloton bomb that was detonated at a different testing range; a U.S. Air Force “Constant Phoenix” nuclear-detection aircraft reportedly detected plutonium afterward. Since Pakistan had been working on a uranium bomb and North Korea—which shared or purchased research with Pakistan through the A. Q. Khan network—had been working on a uranium bomb, some outside observers concluded the sixth test was actually a North Korean test, detonated elsewhere to conceal North Korea’s involvement although. There is no consensus on this conclusion.

Experts believe Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile is steadily growing. In 1998, the stockpile was estimated at five to twenty-five devices, depending on how much enriched uranium each bomb required. Today Pakistan is estimated to have an arsenal of 110 to 130 nuclear bombs. In 2015 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center estimated Pakistan’s bomb-making capability at twenty devices annually, which on top of the existing stockpile meant Pakistan could quickly become the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Other observers, however, believe Pakistan can only develop another forty to fifty warheads in the near future.

Pakistani nuclear weapons are under control of the military’s Strategic Plans Division, and are primarily stored in Punjab Province, far from the northwest frontier and the Taliban. Ten thousand Pakistani troops and intelligence personnel from the SPD guard the weapons. Pakistan claims that the weapons are only armed by the appropriate code at the last moment, preventing a “rogue nuke” scenario.

Pakistani nuclear doctrine appears to be to deter what it considers an economically, politically and militarily stronger India. The nuclear standoff is exacerbated by the traditional animosity between the two countries, the several wars the two countries have fought, and events such as the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, which were directed by Pakistan. Unlike neighboring India and China, Pakistan does not have a “no first use” doctrine, and reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, particularly low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, to offset India’s advantage in conventional forces.

Pakistan currently has a nuclear “triad” of nuclear delivery systems based on land, in the air and at sea. Islamabad is believed to have modified American-built F-16A fighters and possibly French-made Mirage fighters to deliver nuclear bombs by 1995. Since the fighters would have to penetrate India’s air defense network to deliver their payloads against cities and other targets, Pakistani aircraft would likely be deliver tactical nuclear weapons against battlefield targets.

Land-based delivery systems are in the form of missiles, with many designs based on or influenced by Chinese and North Korean designs. The Hatf series of mobile missiles includes the solid-fueled Hatf-III (180 miles), solid-fueled Hatf-IV (466 miles) and liquid-fueled Hatf V, (766 miles). The CSIS Missile Threat Initiative believes that as of 2014, Hatf VI (1242 miles) is likely in service. Pakistan is also developing a Shaheen III intermediate-range missile capable of striking targets out to 1708 miles, in order to strike the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.

The sea component of Pakistan’s nuclear force consists of the Babur class of cruise missiles. The latest version, Babur-2, looks like most modern cruise missiles, with a bullet-like shape, a cluster of four tiny tail wings and two stubby main wings, all powered by a turbofan or turbojet engine. The cruise missile has a range of 434 miles. Instead of GPS guidance, which could be disabled regionally by the U.S. government, Babur-2 uses older Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) navigation technology. Babur-2 is deployed on both land and at sea on ships, where they would be more difficult to neutralize. A submarine-launched version, Babur-3, was tested in January and would be the most survivable of all Pakistani nuclear delivery systems.

Pakistan is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war. It is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan and India are clearly in the midst of a nuclear arms race that could, in relative terms, lead to absurdly high nuclear stockpiles reminiscent of the Cold War. It is clear that an arms-control agreement for the subcontinent is desperately needed.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared last year.

Image: Reuters. 

Trump warns of a ‘major event’

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Trump says it will be hard to unify country without a ‘major event’

By — Yamiche Alcindor

Politics Jan 30, 2018 4:37 PM EST

Hours before his first State of the Union, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wants to unite the country amid “tremendous divisiveness” and hopes he can do so without a traumatic event affecting Americans.

Trump spoke about creating a more united country during a lunch with a number of television news anchors. Trump said the United States has long been divided, including during the impeachment of former president Bill Clinton. Trump also said that Americans usually come together during times of suffering.

“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” Trump said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”

The president also said the country’s divisions date back to both Republican and Democratic administrations, citing the scandals that led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House in 1998.

“I want to see our country united. I want to bring our country back from a tremendous divisiveness, which has taken place not just over one year, over many years, including the Bush years, not just Obama.” he said.

Trump went on to say that uniting people would also be hard because of issues like health care, because some people want “free health care paid by the government” and others want “health care paid by private, where there’s great competition.”

The comments came as the president was putting the finishing touches on his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

According to a White House official, Trump’s speech will be about 50 minutes long, and was written with help from H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor, Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor, Stephen Miller, the senior policy advisor, and Ross Worthington and Vince Haley, who are both speechwriters.