Iran is behind North Korea’s nuclear, missile advances

Could Iran be behind North Korea’s nuclear, missile advances?


WASHINGTON/MOSCOW — There is growing speculation that Iran could be providing funds to North Korea and enabling the rogue nation to continue nuclear and missile development, despite a slew of heavy international economic sanctions.

“Iran just test-fired a ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea,” U.S. President Donald Trump claimed in a message posted on Twitter Saturday.

Iran and North Korea have not announced any cooperation in nuclear and missile development, but U.S. and European intelligence agencies see it as an “unquestionable fact,” Western diplomatic sources said.

The second stage of North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile is similar to the upper stages designed for the Iranian space launch vehicles,” Jeffrey Lewis, director at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote in an article published July. The American nuclear nonproliferation expert came to the conclusion after watching images of the missile launch released by the North Korean news media.

Growing suspicion

Iran and North Korea had cooperated in the development of missiles and other military technologies over a long period starting in the 1980s. Iran’s Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile was developed based on North Korea’s Nodong, it has been said.

Experts have pointed out that the missile, which Iran claimed it successfully tested Saturday, shares many resemblances with North Korea’s Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile.
There is a high possibility that Iran and North Korea are still working together because they can get huge mutual benefits by cooperating, Yuri Fedorov, an expert on the Russian military, said.

Iran’s 2015 agreement with the U.S., the European Union and others has restricted its ability to develop nuclear technologies. However, Tehran would be able to continue and even accelerate its nuclear development by conducting studies in North Korea, Fedorov noted.

North Korea would also benefit from cooperating with Iran. The Middle Eastern country has boosted natural resources exports following the 2015 agreement. Pyongyang, struggling under the heavyweight of economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. and the U.S., could obtain much-needed funds for nuclear and missile development from Iran.

Furthermore, North Korea could gain access to Iran’s uranium enrichment technology, as well as technical information at U.S. and European research institutes via Iranian researchers.

Russian angle

There is speculation that Russia has given a tacit nod to cooperation between Iran and North Korea, seeing stronger relations between the two countries as helping to counter the U.S.

According to Western diplomatic sources in Moscow, Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, took flights via Russia when he visited Iran in August with many military experts in tow.

The U.S. has not attacked North Korea because Washington knows Pyongyang has nuclear weapons, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted in a television interview aired Sunday. He also repeated comments that could be interpreted as defending North Korea’s nuclear development efforts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the North Korean conflict as a leverage to chip away at the unipolar world controlled by the U.S., Fyodor Lukyanov, a well-known Russian commentator on diplomatic issues, said.

The Collusion of Iran and North Korea

Shortly after revealing the new Khorramshahr medium range ballistic missile to the public for the first time, Iran released a never before seen video showing a successful test of the weapon, but did not give a date or place for the footage. The new development will undoubtedly have an impact on whether U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration decide to scrap a deal with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, but it also underscores long-standing concerns that the Iranian authorities have been working with the North Koreans and other allies to skirt their international obligations.

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), a military-political organization that commands immense influence on the country’s domestic and foreign policy, unveiled the Khorramshahr during a military parade on Sept. 22, 2017 as part of the country’s annual Sacred Defense Week. The events commemorate the country’s bloody war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988.

The city of Khorramshahr features heavily in Iran’s historical accounting of that conflict, as it was the site of the war’s first battle and remained under Iraqi control until 1982. The liberation marked a turning point in Iran’s favor and the new missile’s moniker is almost certainly a symbolic reference.

Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a senior commander from the IRGC’s Aerospace Division told reporters that the missile had a range of approximately 1,250 miles and could carry multiple warheads, suggesting it had a so-called multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) configuration and could strike more than one target at a time. “As it was observed, the missile has become smaller in size and more tactical and it will be operational in the near future,” he added.

The missile on parade had a single, solid nose cone, making it impossible to verify the multiple warhead claims. The video footage did not show any evidence of this feature, either. If the range figure is accurate, Khorramshahr could carry a warhead or warheads anywhere in the Middle East, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as hit targets in parts of Eastern Europe, East Africa, and Central Asia.

“We will promote our defensive and military power as much as we deem necessary,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech before the procession. “We seek no one’s permission to defend our land.”

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, second from right, speaks ahead of the start of the 2017 Sacred Defense Week military parade.

Rouhani’s remarks and the display of the missile itself, seem to be a response, at least in part, to fiery rhetoric from President Trump, who criticized Iran’s government during his first ever speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly and has slammed the deal over Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The Trump administration says that Iranian ballistic missile development and tests go against the spirit of that agreement.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” Trump said in front of other world leaders and international diplomats at the United Nations on Sept. 19, 2017. “The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.  Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it – believe me.”

AP President Donald Trump speaks at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017.

The Iran Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), does not technically cover ballistic missiles. United Nations Security Council resolutions, though, do prohibit Iran from developing such weapons, but only insofar as they can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.

Needless to say, the demonstration of the Khorramshahr has added a certain weight to calls in the United States to pull out of or otherwise reconsider the future of the JCPOA. Critics of pulling out of the arrangement say that it could only hasten Iran’s development of both newer and more advanced ballistic missiles, as well as a nuclear weapon.

However, Khorramshahr may prompt additional concerns that Iran may already be working along both of these lines with help from North Korea and other allies. Observers were quick to point out that the missile shares a number of similarities, especially in its apparent engine configuration, with the North Korean BM-25 Musudan, also known as the Hwasong-10.

Iran claims that the new missile is an entirely domestic effort, but it makes similar statements about almost every weapon system it unveils, even those that are clearly derived from foreign designs. Its existing Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missiles are a known derivative of North Korea’s earlier Hwasong-7.

In July 2016, Fox News reported that Iran had unsuccessfully tested a Musudan, citing a number of unnamed sources. This came one month after the North Korea’s first successful launch of the type.

Then, in January 2017, Fox News said that more anonymous sources had told them the Iranians had test fired a new, then unknown missile, with the name Khorramshahr. It reportedly flew approximately 600 miles with an unknown apogee before exploding. According to Reuters, a U.S. military official said this was the same type Iran had tested in July 2016. It is very possible that the video shown during the opening of Sacred Defense Week 2017 was from this test.

Separately, in July 2017, Iran formally opened the Imam Khomeini Space Center near Semnan with the launch of a Simorgh space launch vehicle, which the United States and other critics say is simply a cover for work on an intercontinental ballistic missile. This launch occurred the same a month as North Korea’s first demonstration of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile.

Iranian Defense Ministry via AP Iran’s Simorgh space launch vehicle at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in July 2017.

We cannot say conclusively that Iran and North Korea are actively working together on ballistic missile developments, but the timelines and past precedents heavily point to continued cooperation on advanced weapons. Though the Khorramshahr is liquid fueled, it is possible that this engagement could lead to improved solid fuel designs, which troops can set up and fire faster, similar to North Korea’s Pukguksong series.

“Iranian solid-propellant programs are also progressing,” the 2017 NASIC report noted. Iran already has a solid fuel weapon with the same estimated range as the Khorramshahr, the Sejjil.

We also know, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, that STRATCOM’s J321 Industrial Systems Analyst had been looking into someone’s solid fuel rocket motor development between July and December 2016. The briefing slide in question is so heavily redacted that it’s difficult to make out the exact objectives or targets of the analysis, but does mention earlier studies done on behalf of U.S. Pacific Command.


The added fear, of course, would be that if the two are working on missiles, then they could just as easily be sharing information on nuclear weapons. There has long been a concern that Iran could easily afford to halt its domestic nuclear program because it had either already completed all the necessary research or could continue it elsewhere away from the prying eyes of international inspectors.

The appearance of ballistic missile-related facilities in Syria that look similar to those Iran adds weight to the possibility that the government in Tehran has reached out to allies to help shield various advanced weapons programs for scrutiny, to support parallel developments in those countries, or both. Iran has been very open about proliferating various artillery rocket and short-range ballistic missile technology, such as the Zulfiqar missiles it fired at ISIS terrorists in June 2017, both to states like Syria and non-state actors like the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

“Taking a definitive stand against Trump is only the beginning of the path,” General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the IRGC, said after hearing Trump’s comments, according to the organization’s official Sepah News outlet. “What is strategically important is that America witnesses more painful responses in the actions, behavior and decisions that Iran takes in the coming months.”

Since Iran insists it is not building any nuclear weapons, it says its ballistic missile work does not fall under the terms of these resolutions. The United States has challenged this interpretation, saying that there is limited utility in long-range ballistic missiles with conventional payloads and that it makes little sense to spend the time and energy on their development without nuclear warheads.

“The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for under the JCPOA,” U.S. Air Force General John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said during a talk at the Hudson Institute event. “But at the same time they are rapidly, rapidly deploying and developing a whole series of ballistic missiles and testing ballistic missiles at all ranges that provide significant concerns to not just the United States, but our allies.”

According to an unclassified 2017 report from the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), of the countries presently the United States know are working on new medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles, only Iran has not tested a nuclear device. “Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs and continues to attempt to increase the lethality of its ballistic missile force,” the analysts added.

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi A display of IRGC missiles, including a Sejjil at left, during Sacred Defense Week in 2011.

These concerns are hardly new, of course. Since Iran Deal came into effect in 2015, there have been more than 10 reported Iranian missile tests.

“The United States is deeply concerned about Iran’s recent ballistic missile launches, which are provocative and destabilizing,” then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said in March 2016 after a series of launches. “We condemn such threats against another U.N. member state and one of our closest allies,” she added in response to Iranian remarks that the tests were meant as a clear warning to Israel.

Still, the appearance of the Khorramshahr is likely to unsettle Iran’s regional opponents, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are both already in the process of expanding their ballistic missile defenses. On Sept. 18, 2017, the U.S. military announced it would set up its first ever formal base in Israel, which appeared to be an expansion of existing missile defense cooperation.

Israel is also increasingly worried about Hezbollah’s capabilities as the group receives more Iranian and Syrian support to continue operations against rebels fighting the government of dictator Bashar Al Assad in Syria. On Sept. 22, 2017, Israeli aircraft attacked a site the group controlled near the airport in Damascus, the latest intervention in that country by the Israeli Air Force.

Earlier in September 2017, Israel also struck the Syrian Scientific Studies and Researchers Center. Those most reporting focused on this organization’s work on Syria’s chemical weapons program, it is also linked to ballistic missile work.

It seems very possible that we could see a flurry of ballistic missile developments in Iran and among its allies in the near future. It also will be interesting to see if new Iran announcements continue to come soon after similar displays in North Korea.

Note: Many news outlets reported the launch shown in the video the Iranians released during Sacred Defense Week 2017 as new, but it remains unclear whether or not this was the case. In their English language reporting, Iranian media outlets did not frame this as a new test, suggesting that it could have been footage of the January 2017 launch. As of Sept. 23, 2017, neither the Pentagon nor the U.S. State Department had released a statement about any new launch, either. Regardless, it was a clear demonstration that the missile has flown successfully on at least one occasion.

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

ramapo fault line eastern united states | ... Madrid Fault Line experiences an earthquake, so may the east coastLiving on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.

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.

But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.

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.

The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.

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 (

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.

“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.

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

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.”


Planning for the Big One

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.

Awaiting the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 15) effects of a single terrorist nuclear bomb

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Matthew BunnNickolas Roth

The escalating threats between North Korea and the United States make it easy to forget the “nuclear nightmare,” as former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry put it, that could result even from the use of just a single terrorist nuclear bomb in the heart of a major city.

At the risk of repeating the vast literature on the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the substantial literature surrounding nuclear tests and simulations since then—we attempt to spell out here the likely consequences of the explosion of a single terrorist nuclear bomb on a major city, and its subsequent ripple effects on the rest of the planet. Depending on where and when it was detonated, the blast, fire, initial radiation, and long-term radioactive fallout from such a bomb could leave the heart of a major city a smoldering radioactive ruin, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people and wounding hundreds of thousands more. Vast areas would have to be evacuated and might be uninhabitable for years. Economic, political, and social aftershocks would ripple throughout the world. A single terrorist nuclear bomb would change history. The country attacked—and the world—would never be the same.

The idea of terrorists accomplishing such a thing is, unfortunately, not out of the question; it is far easier to make a crude, unsafe, unreliable nuclear explosive that might fit in the back of a truck than it is to make a safe, reliable weapon of known yield that can be delivered by missile or combat aircraft. Numerous government studies have concluded that it is plausible that a sophisticated terrorist group could make a crude bomb if they got the needed nuclear material. And in the last quarter century, there have been some 20 seizures of stolen, weapons-usable nuclear material, and at least two terrorist groups have made significant efforts to acquire nuclear bombs.

Terrorist use of an actual nuclear bomb is a low-probability event—but the immensity of the consequences means that even a small chance is enough to justify an intensive effort to reduce the risk. Fortunately, since the early 1990s, countries around the world have significantly reduced the danger—but it remains very real, and there is more to do to ensure this nightmare never becomes reality.

Brighter than a thousand suns. Imagine a crude terrorist nuclear bomb—containing a chunk of highly enriched uranium just under the size of a regulation bowling ball, or a much smaller chunk of plutonium—suddenly detonating inside a delivery van parked in the heart of a major city. Such a terrorist bomb would release as much as 10 kilotons of explosive energy, or the equivalent of 10,000 tons of conventional explosives, a volume of explosives large enough to fill all the cars of a mile-long train. In a millionth of a second, all of that energy would be released inside that small ball of nuclear material, creating temperatures and pressures as high as those at the center of the sun. That furious energy would explode outward, releasing its energy in three main ways: a powerful blast wave; intense heat; and deadly radiation.

The ball would expand almost instantly into a fireball the width of four football fields, incinerating essentially everything and everyone within. The heated fireball would rise, sucking in air from below and expanding above, creating the mushroom cloud that has become the symbol of the terror of the nuclear age. The ionized plasma in the fireball would create a localized electromagnetic pulse more powerful than lightning, shorting out communications and electronics nearby—though most would be destroyed by the bomb’s other effects in any case. (Estimates of heat, blast, and radiation effects in this article are drawn primarily from Alex Wellerstein’s “Nukemap,” which itself comes from declassified US government data, such as the government textbook The Effects of Nuclear Weapons.)

At the instant of its detonation, the bomb would also release an intense burst of gamma and neutron radiation which would be lethal for nearly everyone directly exposed within about two-thirds of a mile from the center of the blast. (Those who happened to be shielded by being inside, or having buildings between them and the bomb, would be partly protected—in some cases, reducing their doses by ten times or more.)

The nuclear flash from the heat of the fireball would radiate in both visible light and the infrared; it would be “brighter than a thousand suns,” in the words of the title of a book describing the development of nuclear weapons—adapting a phrase from the Hindu epic the Bhagavad-Gita. Anyone who looked directly at the blast would be blinded. The heat from the fireball would ignite fires and horribly burn everyone exposed outside at distances of nearly a mile away. (In the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, visitors gaze in horror at the bones of a human hand embedded in glass melted by the bomb.)

No one has burned a city on that scale in the decades since World War II, so it is difficult to predict the full extent of the fire damage that would occur from the explosion of a nuclear bomb in one of today’s cities. Modern glass, steel, and concrete buildings would presumably be less flammable than the wood-and-rice-paper housing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in the 1940s—but many questions remain, including exactly how thousands of broken gas lines might contribute to fire damage (as they did in Dresden during World War II). On 9/11, the buildings of the World Trade Center proved to be much more vulnerable to fire damage than had been expected. Ultimately, even a crude terrorist nuclear bomb would carry the possibility that the countless fires touched off by the explosion would coalesce into a devastating firestorm, as occurred at Hiroshima. In a firestorm, the rising column of hot air from the massive fire sucks in the air from all around, creating hurricane-force winds; everything flammable and everything alive within the firestorm would be consumed. The fires and the dust from the blast would make it extremely difficult for either rescuers or survivors to see.

The explosion would create a powerful blast wave rushing out in every direction. For more than a quarter-mile all around the blast, the pulse of pressure would be over 20 pounds per square inch above atmospheric pressure (known as “overpressure”), destroying or severely damaging even sturdy buildings. The combination of blast, heat, and radiation would kill virtually everyone in this zone. The blast would be accompanied by winds of many hundreds of miles per hour.

The damage from the explosion would extend far beyond this inner zone of almost total death. Out to more than half a mile, the blast would be strong enough to collapse most residential buildings and create a serious danger that office buildings would topple over, killing those inside and those in the path of the rubble. (On the other hand, the office towers of a modern city would tend to block the blast wave in some areas, providing partial protection from the blast, as well as from the heat and radiation.) In that zone, almost anything made of wood would be destroyed: Roofs would cave in, windows would shatter, gas lines would rupture. Telephone poles, street lamps, and utility lines would be severely damaged. Many roads would be blocked by mountains of wreckage. In this zone, many people would be killed or injured in building collapses, or trapped under the rubble; many more would be burned, blinded, or injured by flying debris. In many cases, their charred skin would become ragged and fall off in sheets.

The effects of the detonation would act in deadly synergy. The smashed materials of buildings broken by the blast would be far easier for the fires to ignite than intact structures. The effects of radiation would make it far more difficult for burned and injured people to recover. The combination of burns, radiation, and physical injuries would cause far more death and suffering than any one of them would alone.

The silent killer. The bomb’s immediate effects would be followed by a slow, lingering killer: radioactive fallout. A bomb detonated at ground level would dig a huge crater, hurling tons of earth and debris thousands of feet into the sky. Sucked into the rising fireball, these particles would mix with the radioactive remainders of the bomb, and over the next few hours or days, the debris would rain down for miles downwind. Depending on weather and wind patterns, the fallout could actually be deadlier and make a far larger area unusable than the blast itself. Acute radiation sickness from the initial radiation pulse and the fallout would likely affect tens of thousands of people. Depending on the dose, they might suffer from vomiting, watery diarrhea, fever, sores, loss of hair, and bone marrow depletion. Some would survive; some would die within days; some would take months to die. Cancer rates among the survivors would rise. Women would be more vulnerable than men—children and infants especially so.

Much of the radiation from a nuclear blast is short-lived; radiation levels even a few days after the blast would be far below those in the first hours. For those not killed or terribly wounded by the initial explosion, the best advice would be to take shelter in a basement for at least several days. But many would be too terrified to stay. Thousands of panic-stricken people might receive deadly doses of radiation as they fled from their homes. Some of the radiation will be longer-lived; areas most severely affected would have to be abandoned for many years after the attack. The combination of radioactive fallout and the devastation of nearly all life-sustaining infrastructure over a vast area would mean that hundreds of thousands of people would have to evacuate.

Ambulances to nowhere. The explosion would also destroy much of the city’s ability to respond. Hospitals would be leveled, doctors and nurses killed and wounded, ambulances destroyed. (In Hiroshima, 42 of 45 hospitals were destroyed or severely damaged, and 270 of 300 doctors were killed.) Resources that survived outside the zone of destruction would be utterly overwhelmed. Hospitals have no ability to cope with tens or hundreds of thousands of terribly burned and injured people all at once; the United States, for example, has 1,760 burn beds in hospitals nationwide, of which a third are available on any given day.

And the problem would not be limited to hospitals; firefighters, for example, would have little ability to cope with thousands of fires raging out of control at once. Fire stations and equipment would be destroyed in the affected area, and firemen killed, along with police and other emergency responders. Some of the first responders may become casualties themselves, from radioactive fallout, fire, and collapsing buildings. Over much of the affected area, communications would be destroyed, by both the physical effects and the electromagnetic pulse from the explosion.

Better preparation for such a disaster could save thousands of lives—but ultimately, there is no way any city can genuinely be prepared for a catastrophe on such a historic scale, occurring in a flash, with zero warning. Rescue and recovery attempts would be impeded by the destruction of most of the needed personnel and equipment, and by fire, debris, radiation, fear, lack of communications, and the immense scale of the disaster. The US military and the national guard could provide critically important capabilities—but federal plans assume that “no significant federal response” would be available for 24-to-72 hours. Many of those burned and injured would wait in vain for help, food, or water, perhaps for days.

The scale of death and suffering. How many would die in such an event, and how many would be terribly wounded, would depend on where and when the bomb was detonated, what the weather conditions were at the time, how successful the response was in helping the wounded survivors, and more. Many estimates of casualties are based on census data, which reflect where people sleep at night; if the attack occurred in the middle of a workday, the numbers of people crowded into the office towers at the heart of many modern cities would be far higher. The daytime population of Manhattan, for example, is roughly twice its nighttime population; in Midtown on a typical workday, there are an estimated 980,000 people per square mile. A 10-kiloton weapon detonated there might well kill half a million people—not counting those who might die of radiation sickness from the fallout. (These effects were analyzed in great detail in the Rand Corporation’s Considering the Effects of a Catastrophic Terrorist Attack and the British Medical Journal’s “Nuclear terrorism.”)

On a typical day, the wind would blow the fallout north, seriously contaminating virtually all of Manhattan above Gramercy Park; people living as far away as Stamford, Connecticut would likely have to evacuate.

Seriously injured survivors would greatly outnumber the dead, their suffering magnified by the complete inadequacy of available help. The psychological and social effects—overwhelming sadness, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, myriad forms of anxiety—would be profound and long-lasting.

The scenario we have been describing is a groundburst. An airburst—such as might occur, for example, if terrorists put their bomb in a small aircraft they had purchased or rented—would extend the blast and fire effects over a wider area, killing and injuring even larger numbers of people immediately. But an airburst would not have the same lingering effects from fallout as a groundburst, because the rock and dirt would not be sucked up into the fireball and contaminated. The 10-kiloton blast we have been discussing is likely toward the high end of what terrorists could plausibly achieve with a crude, improvised bomb, but even a 1-kiloton blast would be a catastrophic event, having a deadly radius between one-third and one-half that of a 10-kiloton blast.

These hundreds of thousands of people would not be mere statistics, but countless individual stories of loss—parents, children, entire families; all religions; rich and poor alike—killed or horribly mutilated. Human suffering and tragedy on this scale does not have to be imagined; it can be remembered through the stories of the survivors of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only times in history when nuclear weapons have been used intentionally against human beings. The pain and suffering caused by those bombings are almost beyond human comprehension; the eloquent testimony of the Hibakusha—the survivors who passed through the atomic fire—should stand as an eternal reminder of the need to prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used in anger again.

Global economic disaster. The economic impact of such an attack would be enormous. The effects would reverberate for so far and so long that they are difficult to estimate in all their complexity. Hundreds of thousands of people would be too injured or sick to work for weeks or months. Hundreds of thousands more would evacuate to locations far from their jobs. Many places of employment would have to be abandoned because of the radioactive fallout. Insurance companies would reel under the losses; but at the same time, many insurance policies exclude the effects of nuclear attacks—an item insurers considered beyond their ability to cover—so the owners of thousands of buildings would not have the insurance payments needed to cover the cost of fixing them, thousands of companies would go bankrupt, and banks would be left holding an immense number of mortgages that would never be repaid.

Consumer and investor confidence would likely be dramatically affected, as worried people slowed their spending. Enormous new homeland security and military investments would be very likely. If the bomb had come in a shipping container, the targeted country—and possibly others—might stop all containers from entering until it could devise a system for ensuring they could never again be used for such a purpose, throwing a wrench into the gears of global trade for an extended period. (And this might well occur even if a shipping container had not been the means of delivery.)

Even the far smaller 9/11 attacks are estimated to have caused economic aftershocks costing almost $1 trillion even excluding the multi-trillion-dollar costs of the wars that ensued. The cost of a terrorist nuclear attack in a major city would likely be many times higher.

The most severe effects would be local, but the effects of trade disruptions, reduced economic activity, and more would reverberate around the world. Consequently, while some countries may feel that nuclear terrorism is only a concern for the countries most likely to be targeted—such as the United States—in reality it is a threat to everyone, everywhere. In 2005, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that these global effects would push “tens of millions of people into dire poverty,” creating “a second death toll throughout the developing world.” One recent estimate suggested that a nuclear attack in an urban area would cause a global recession, cutting global Gross Domestic Product by some two percent, and pushing an additional 30 million people in the developing world into extreme poverty.

Desperate dilemmas. In short, an act of nuclear terrorism could rip the heart out of a major city, and cause ripple effects throughout the world. The government of the country attacked would face desperate decisions: How to help the city attacked? How to prevent further attacks? How to respond or retaliate?

Terrorists—either those who committed the attack or others—would probably claim they had more bombs already hidden in other cities (whether they did or not), and threaten to detonate them unless their demands were met. The fear that this might be true could lead people to flee major cities in a large-scale, uncontrolled evacuation. There is very little ability to support the population of major cities in the surrounding countryside. The potential for widespread havoc and economic chaos is very real.

If the detonation took place in the capital of the nation attacked, much of the government might be destroyed. A bomb in Washington, D.C., for example, might kill the President, the Vice President, and many of the members of Congress and the Supreme Court. (Having some plausible national leader survive is a key reason why one cabinet member is always elsewhere on the night of the State of the Union address.) Elaborate, classified plans for “continuity of government” have already been drawn up in a number of countries, but the potential for chaos and confusion—if almost all of a country’s top leaders were killed—would still be enormous. Who, for example, could address the public on what the government would do, and what the public should do, to respond? Could anyone honestly assure the public there would be no further attacks? If they did, who would believe them? In the United States, given the practical impossibility of passing major legislation with Congress in ruins and most of its members dead or seriously injured, some have argued for passing legislation in advance giving the government emergency powers to act—and creating procedures, for example, for legitimately replacing most of the House of Representatives. But to date, no such legislative preparations have been made.

In what would inevitably be a desperate effort to prevent further attacks, traditional standards of civil liberties might be jettisoned, at least for a time—particularly when people realized that the fuel for the bomb that had done such damage would easily have fit in a suitcase. Old rules limiting search and surveillance could be among the first to go. The government might well impose martial law as it sought to control the situation, hunt for the perpetrators, and find any additional weapons or nuclear materials they might have. Even the far smaller attacks of 9/11 saw the US government authorizing torture of prisoners and mass electronic surveillance.

And what standards of international order and law would still hold sway? The country attacked might well lash out militarily at whatever countries it thought might bear a portion of responsibility. (A terrifying description of the kinds of discussions that might occur appeared in Brian Jenkins’ book, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?) With the nuclear threshold already crossed in this scenario—at least by terrorists—it is conceivable that some of the resulting conflicts might escalate to nuclear use. International politics could become more brutish and violent, with powerful states taking unilateral action, by force if necessary, in an effort to ensure their security. After 9/11, the United States led the invasions of two sovereign nations, in wars that have since cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, while plunging a region into chaos. Would the reaction after a far more devastating nuclear attack be any less?

In particular, the idea that each state can decide for itself how much security to provide for nuclear weapons and their essential ingredients would likely be seen as totally unacceptable following such an attack. Powerful states would likely demand that others surrender their nuclear material or accept foreign troops (or other imposed security measures) to guard it.

That could well be the first step toward a more profound transformation of the international system. After such a catastrophe, major powers may feel compelled to more freely engage in preventive war, seizing territories they worry might otherwise be terrorist safe havens, and taking other steps they see as brutal but necessary to preserve their security. For this reason, foreign policy analyst Stephen Krasner has argued that “conventional rules of sovereignty would be abandoned overnight.” Confidence in both the national security institutions of the country attacked and international institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, which had so manifestly failed to prevent the devastation, might erode. The effect on nuclear weapons policies is hard to predict: One can imagine new nuclear terror driving a new push for nuclear disarmament, but one could also imagine states feeling more certain than ever before that they needed nuclear weapons.

Prevention: The essential remedy. Given the horrifying consequences of such an event, while there is certainly a need to be better prepared to respond, the primary focus must be on prevention. Fortunately, there is good news on this front. To date, there is no evidence that nuclear weapons or the materials needed to make them have ever fallen into the hands of a terrorist group; even large and sophisticated terrorist groups that have tried to get nuclear weapons have failed to do so; and the international community has taken a wide range of actions over the past quarter-century (and particularly over the 2010-2016 period of the nuclear security summits) that have drastically improved the security measures for nuclear weapons and materials around the world.

Nevertheless, while the chance of such a nightmare unfolding is probably small, it is certainly not small enough to justify complacency. Al Qaeda had a focused effort to acquire nuclear weapons that reported directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the group’s leader, and included multiple attempts to get nuclear material and recruit nuclear expertise; Al Qaeda progressed as far as carrying out crude conventional explosive tests for their bomb program in the Afghan desert. The Japanese terror cult Aum Shinrikyo—the group that launched nerve gas attacks in the Tokyo subway in 1995— also pursued nuclear weapons. To date, there are only hints of nuclear interest from the Islamic State, but if it did turn to nuclear pursuits, even with the imminent defeat of its geographic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, it still has more money, people, and ability to recruit experts globally than most past terrorist groups, raising a serious concern. With at least two terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons over the past quarter-century, and possibly more, it is unlikely they will be the last.

Moreover, the past seizures of stolen weapons-usable nuclear material demonstrate that nuclear security failures have occurred at some point in the past. While nuclear security has improved dramatically in many countries in the past quarter-century, the possibility that terrorists could get the essential ingredients of a nuclear bomb still cannot be ruled out.

What then, must be done? First, major efforts are needed to recover some of the momentum imparted to nuclear security programs by the now-completed nuclear security summit process, revitalizing efforts to address remaining weaknesses. Second, because nuclear security is unlikely to be perfect, other layers of defense are needed to cope with nuclear material that has already been stolen, including stronger anti-nuclear smuggling efforts (especially national police and intelligence teams), better intelligence focused on nuclear smuggling, beefed-up interdiction abilities if intelligence identifies where such items are located, and improved means of detecting efforts to bring a nuclear weapon or its pieces into major cities. Third, deterrence can play a part, particularly in convincing states never to consciously provide nuclear weapons or materials to terrorists —and toward that end, continued investments in nuclear forensics capabilities are needed, to help identify where nuclear material might have come from. Fourth, more intelligence effort—and more international intelligence cooperation—is needed that is targeted on identifying and stopping terrorist plots aimed at nuclear terrorism, and dismantling groups that may harbor such ambitions.

No one knows what the real probability of nuclear terrorism is. It may well be quite low. There is no need for panic, which is exactly what terrorists have sought to achieve by repeatedly claiming to have nuclear weapons. But there is a need for prudent, focused action. Given the scale of the consequences, the countries of the world have an obligation to do everything in their power to ensure that the dark day after a terrorist nuclear blast never comes.

Russia Prepares for the Nuclear Holocaust (Revelation 15)


Russia Just Pulled Off a Massive Nuclear Weapons Drill (That America Can’t Match)

Dave Majumdar

Security, Europe

While all eyes are focused on North Korea, Russia recently conducted a massive drill of its road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile force. The drills involved all of the major Russian mobile ICBMs including the Topol, Topol-M and the Yars.

“Today, missile regiments of the Topol, Topol-M and Yars missile systems have carried out a night march. The regiments are located in five regions from the Tver region to Altai Krai,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“More than 600 piece of hardware including launchers, were operated to ensure combat patrol en-route.”

The drill appears to be a full scope exercise complete with adversary forces attempting to attack the launch vehicles and contaminated terrain.

“Countersabotage formations are drilling tasks to detect, block and eliminate mock insurgents. The formations are operating the Typhoon-M Combat anti-sabotage vehicles equipped with drones,” the statement reads.

“It is planned to train passing through a mock contaminated terrain. At the end of the exercise, the troops are to drill simulated launching of missiles.”

The Russians conduct massive nuclear wargames such as this one to test the readiness of their strategic deterrent.

“Looks like a routine drill of the road-mobile force,” Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, told The National Interest.

The exercise is very large, however, analysts noted.

“It certainly looks like wholesale or close to that,” former Soviet nuclear negotiator Nikolai Sokov, now a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey told The National Interest.

“There used to be a limit on exercises of mobile ICBMs in START I—no more than 50 percent—but such limit no longer exists in New START, if I remember correctly. Seems to me this could be the largest exercise of road mobiles, but it would really require data on all bases individually, not the general language in the announcement. 600 vehicles seems, though, too low for the wholesale thing.”

The Kremlin’s road-mobile ballistic missiles are arguably one of the country’s most survivable legs of its strategic nuclear forces—able to disappear into Russia’s vast landmass. Unlike the United States, where its submarine-based deterrent reigns supreme, Russia’s sub-based deterrent is somewhat hampered by its lack of warm water ports and constrains having operate inside heavily defended bastions.

The Kremlin considers its strategic nuclear deterrent as the paramount guarantor of its sovereignty. As such Russia places a huge emphasis on its strategic nuclear forces. This particular exercise comes on the heels of Russia’s Zapad-17 exercises in Belarus, but it not out of the ordinary.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.

Image: Creative Commons. 

Big Apple Shake: the Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12) Apple shake? Potential for earthquake in New York City exists


NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – For the last 43 years John Armbruster has been a seismologist with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.  A veteran of what he describes as “a couple of dozen” quakes, he is interested in the seismic activity throughout the Pacific region in recent weeks.

However, does the amount of plate movements around the world in recent weeks as well as years to translate to New York City being more vulnerable, “These earthquakes are not communicating with each other, they are too far apart,” said Armbruster in an interview with PIX 11 News on Wednesday.

What would a magnitude 6.0 earthquake inflict upon the city?

“We know that its unlikely because it hasn’t happened in the last 300 years but the earthquake that struck Fukushima Japan was the 1000 year earthquake and they weren’t ready for the that.

Iran Continues To Build Its Nuclear Arsenal (Daniel 8)

The Islamic Republic of Iran has demonstrated a long pattern of obstruction regarding inquiries and investigations into its nuclear activities, and that pattern persists more than two years after the conclusion of a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. 

The conclusion of that agreement in 2015 was to some extent dependent upon the neglect of certain controversial issues, including access to Iranian military sites, where the regime apparently carried out research and development related to weaponization aspects of the country’s nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action effectively skirted this issue by making it theoretically possible for the International Atomic Energy Agency to ask for and receive access to military sites, but only following a month-long process during which the Islamic Republic could work to erase evidence of past activities.

This is exactly what happened at the highly suspect Parchin military base, from which the IAEA obtained soil samples that still showed the presence of some nuclear material after satellite imagery showed the site being partially demolished and sanitized. Despite this fact, the IAEA closed the file on the past military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program so that the JCPOA could go forward toward implementation.

This and other instances of Iranian deception and international neglect were the focus of a recent report published by the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ), the non-profit NGO that I head up in Brussels. The report drew upon public information and intelligence gathered by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main Iranian opposition group with a solid record of exposing information about the regime´s nuclear project. The new information identifies a much broader pattern of behaviors going far beyond well-publicized issues like Parchin.

But even without this additional intelligence, the Parchin situation and the Iranian regime’s repeated insistence that military sites are simply off limits to international inspectors should be enough to demonstrate to the world that the JCPOA has likely not halted Iran’s nuclear activities, much less convinced the regime to cooperate with the international community.

Sadly, various world powers seem to be well aware of the shortcomings of the JCPOA, yet remain committed to preserving that agreement and arguing that it is serving its purpose effectively.

Regardless of one’s position on the JCPOA, it is indefensible to suggest that the agreement has succeeded in its objective of halting Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, or even that the resulting inspections have closed the issue of the past military dimensions of the program.

Anyone familiar with Tehran’s pattern of deception for the past two decades should recognize the need for coordinated international insistence upon immediate and unrestricted access to Parchin and other military sites, as well as access to the sites and personnel associated with the Organization of Defense Innovation and Research, which has been identified as the institution at the heart of weaponization aspects of the Iranian nuclear program. It is simply naïve and utterly dangerous to overlook Tehran’s deceptive behaviors just for the sake of preserving the nuclear deal and pretending the issue of possible military dimensions is resolved.

So far, President Trump has remained silent on whether he plans to certify before Congress that Iran is complying with its obligations under the agreement, as he will be required to do on October 15.

To the extent that the recent report relies upon information from the IAEA’s publicly available documents, it establishes that the nuclear monitoring agency has effectively cast its own findings aside. For instance, the report quotes one IAEA document, published just on the verge of the JCPOA’s implementation, as saying, “The Agency assesses that the extensive activities undertaken by Iran since February 2012 at the particular location of interest to the Agency seriously undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.”

Despite this fact, the Agency now acts as if Tehran’s ongoing patterns of obstruction are not grounds for suspicion about its compliance. The IAEA has repeatedly insisted to the world that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal, but in so doing it has not only ignored the issue of what remains unknown about possible military dimensions, but it has also ignored confirmed, if minor, violations of the JCPOA’s limits on Iran’s stockpiles of nuclear materials and nuclear byproducts.

To the extent that Iran refuses to cooperate with the international community, the nations of the world should show that they can do better by cooperating among themselves in order to exert the pressure that is necessary to make absolutely certain that this theocratic regime is no longer pursuing the capability to build weapons of mass destruction. Giving Tehran a free pass is simply too dangerous.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a Spanish professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is currently president of the Brussels-based International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ).

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Unprepared for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) York Is 40 Years Overdue A Major Earthquake and America Isn’t Properly Prepared, ‘Quakeland’ Author Kathryn Miles Tells Trevor Noah

Updated | An earthquake is long overdue to hit New York and America isn’t prepared, author and environmental theorist Kathryn Miles told Trevor Noah on Tuesday’s Daily Show.

Miles is the author of a new book, Quakeland, which investigates how imminently an earthquake is expected in the U.S. and how well-prepared the country is to handle it. The answer to those questions: Very soon and not very well.

We know it will, that’s inevitable, but we don’t know when,” said Miles when asked when to expect another earthquake in the U.S.

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She warned that New York is in serious danger of being the site of the next one, surprising considering that the West Coast sits along the San Andreas fault line.

New York is 40 years overdue for a significant earthquake…Memphis, Seattle, Washington D.C.—it’s a national problem,” said Miles.

Miles told Noah that though the U.S. is “really good at responding to natural disasters,” like the rapid response to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, the country and its government is, in fact, lagging behind in its ability to safeguard citizens before an earthquake hits.

We’re really bad at the preparedness side,” Miles responded when Noah asked how the infrastructure in the U.S. compares to Mexico’s national warning system, for example.

“Whether it’s the literal infrastructure, like our roads and bridges, or the metaphoric infrastructure, like forecasting, prediction, early warning systems. Historically, we’ve underfunded those and as a result we’re way behind even developing nations on those fronts.”

Part of the problem, Miles says, is that President Donald Trump and his White House are not concerned with warning systems that could prevent the devastation of natural disasters.

“We can invest in an early warning system. That’s one thing we can definitely do. We can invest in better infrastructures, so that when the quake happens, the damage is less,” said the author.

“The scientists, the emergency managers, they have great plans in place. We have the technology for an early warning system, we have the technology for tsunami monitoring. But we don’t have a president that is currently interested in funding that, and that’s a problem.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Miles said New York is the possible site of an upcoming earthquake, and not the likeliest place to be next hit by one.

Nuclear Escalation In South Asia (Revelation 8)

Asia & Pacific

India has deployed an infantry division to a potential flashpoint to guard against any provocation from its neighbor Pakistan and has again warned its ‘adversary’ against aiding terrorists to cross the Line of Control.

New Delhi (Sputnik) – In the midst of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan

over the possibility of India launching a “limited war,” India has revived its decades-old combat division comprising tanks and armored vehicles near the historically significant Akhnoor sector in Jammu and Kashmir.

The division is mandated to counter any action of Pakistani troops in the Chamb-Jaurian sector – the area where the 1971 war between the two countries broke out.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Indian Army, which is now being converted into RAPID

(Reorganized Army Plains Infantry Division), will hold around 100 T-72 tanks and the same number of Russian made mechanized armored vehicles.

The RAPID formation has infantry assets to reasonably conduct significant offensive operations and is easily adaptable to nuclear, biological & chemical warfare.Meanwhile, the Indian Army has once again warned Pakistan that it should stop helping terrorists across the Line of Control (de facto border). “The surgical strikes were a message we wanted to communicate. I think they have understood. If the adversary does not behave, and it is required,

we can conduct such operations again. We can repeat them, if not in the same form and shape,” said Gen Bipin Rawat.

Pakistan, on the other hand, continued to accuse India of unprovoked firing. Pakistani newspaper ‘The Nation’ reported on Monday that Islamabad had contacted Washington, Beijing, Moscow, and London to raise the issue of unprovoked firing at the border by India. “We have urged them to ask India to give up defiance. India is threatening a limited war which could be dangerous for the regional peace,” said a Pakistani official.

Last week, flaunting the country’s short-range nuclear weapons, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Islamabad can use nuclear weapons to thwart any Indian attempt to enter Pakistani territory. “We have developed short-range nuclear weapons as a counter to the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine that India has developed,” Abbassi said. The Cold Start doctrine is considered as a retaliatory offensive arrangement along the western border, through which Indian armed forces can hit specific targets for a limited duration.India’s Cold Start doctrine had been on the backburner for many years; however, General Bipin Rawat opened the discussion on reviving the doctrine soon after taking charge as chief of the Indian Army in the beginning of 2017.

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.