East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)


WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.

A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.

The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.

In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.

At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.

A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.

Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.

The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.

Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.

“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.

“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.

“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.

Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.

At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.

“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”

Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.

The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.

The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.

The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.

In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.

At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”

Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.

Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.

“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”

The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.

Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.

A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.

“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”

An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.

The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.

Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.

It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.

The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.

People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.

In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.

Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.

“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.

“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”


Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The Growing Chinese Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7:7)

See the source imageUS, report says

Wade Bennett


China continues to rapidly advance its nuclear weapons program in a growing arms race with the U.S. and Russia, with Beijing now conducting as many as five simulated nuclear tests per month. The U.S. averages less than one test per month.

In a document released by the China Academy of Engineering Physics, the institute said that between September 2014 and December 2017, China conducted around 200 laboratory experiments simulating the extreme physics of a nuclear blast.

The purpose of the tests, according to Pentagon officials, is to develop an arsenal of next-generation weapons in response to the U.S.’ own capabilities, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

“The use of small warheads will lead to the use of bigger ones,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie stated. “If other countries use nuclear weapons on us, we have to retaliate. This is probably why there is research to develop new weapons.”

Because of an international ban, China’s experiments are not full-fledged nuclear weapons tests. Instead, the tests are carried out using high-powered gas guns that fire projectiles at weapons-grade materials in labs.

The tests occur in tunnels deep under the mountains in Mianyang, where China’s main nuclear design facilities are based.

However, China has conducted just a fraction of the total number of live nuclear tests compared to the U.S., which has detonated more than 1,000 nuclear warheads since 1945, Professor Wang Chuanbin at Wuhan University of Technology pointed out.

Still, China’s growing nuclear efforts signal a new nuclear arms race that shows no signs of slowing down. What’s more concerning is that public opinion on such an arms race has yet to catch up with the reality, according to James Lewis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In response to the growing threat of a nuclear arms race, the White House is considering a $1.2 trillion nuclear stockpile revitalization plan.

The Pentagon also announced its intention to develop new low-yield nuclear weapons for cruise missiles and submarines.

But these developments were a response to Moscow and not Beijing, Lewis said.

The U.S.’ own interest in revamping its nuclear program seems to have indirectly motivated China, he pointed out.

“After some debate, the U.S. decided it needed to think about warheads, without the need for actual tests,” Lewis said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if China saw all this and decided that it had better get in the game.”

China’s various territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also been an outlet for the country to justify its expanding military efforts.

Jie pointed out that that Beijing has pledged to never be the first to initiate nuclear arms, regardless of the circumstances.

The Terror of the Pakistani Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)


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.

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.

Pompeo Tries to Make a Deal with Korea

Let’s call it microwave diplomacy.

The proposed venue and date are clear — June 12 in Singapore. Hotel rooms are tentatively booked. Planes are at the ready. Logistics teams are working out kinks. To the bemusement of late-night comedians, the commemorative coin for the Trump-Kim summit is already minted.

All that is missing is the deal: The North Koreans have not agreed to the immediate — or even the staged — dismantlement of their nuclear weapons arsenal and infrastructure that the White House has demanded.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Pompeo and North Korean emissary Kim Yong Chol will discuss “the denuclearization of the peninsula” and as long as that remains the focus “we’re going to continue to shoot for June 12.”

Yet Pompeo faces many obstacles.

Although the New York session marks Pompeo’s third sit-down with Kim Yong Chol, a four-star general who is North Korea’s former spy chief, Pompeo is a neophyte in nuclear diplomacy. The former Kansas congressman has been secretary of State for barely a month, after serving a little more than a year as CIA director.

Kim Yong Chol has been a top aide of North Korea’s ruling dynasty since the days of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader. He headed North Korea’s principal arms dealing apparatus and has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for that and other action. To visit New York, he had to obtain a special waiver from the State Department.

“Pompeo is a smart guy, but he doesn’t have experience with this. Kim Yong Chol has been involved in every negotiation since 1992. He can beat any American who goes up against him,’’ said a veteran U.S.-Korea negotiator who asked not to be quoted by name.

Pompeo also faces opposition in Washington. Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, a longtime advocate of a change of government in Pyongyang, nearly sabotaged the summit with provocative comments suggesting the surrender of Libya’s nuclear infrastructure in 2003 would be a model for North Korea.

North Korean leaders recoiled at the comparison with Libya, whose leader Moammar Kadafi was ignominiously killed and mutilated by rebels aided by Western air power less than a decade after he had given up his nuclear program.

It didn’t help that the CIA, which Pompeo headed until last month, concluded in a recent intelligent assessment that North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. The assessment did note that the North Koreans would like an American hamburger restaurant in Pyongyang, according to NBC, which broke the story.

Experts debate whether North Korea will eventually give up its nuclear arsenal but there is near unanimity that it won’t do it upfront without significant U.S. concessions in return.

“To eliminate everything upfront and virtually all at once is tantamount to a North Korean surrender scenario. It is unimaginable,’’ concluded a report released this week by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. The report said it could take at least a decade to fully dismantle the nuclear program.

North Korea has said it will not give up what it calls its “treasured sword” unless it is certain the United States has abandoned a “hostile policy” against it.

“It will take them watching American behavior over a long period of time, through more than one administration,’’ said Leon V. Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project of the New York-based Social Science Research Council.

The Trump administration has veered between demands for instant denuclearization and a step-by-step approach. The White House position is that North Korea must agree to complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization, or CVID in diplomatic shorthand.

“Trump would like to get it all at once, but if he can’t, he’s making space for a phased in denuclearization,’’ said Scott Snyder, North Korea analyst with the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.

Echoing several analysts, Jung Pak, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institute think tank, cautioned against the evident lack of preparation.

“Usually with a summit, the rule is no surprises: Every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed before it starts,” said Pak, a former CIA analyst specializing in the Koreas. “This time we can’t even agree on what denuclearization means.”

Pak said she expects the summit to go forward because Trump is so invested, and the North Koreans are so determined that it happen. “Kim Yong Chol will dangle just enough in front of Pompeo [so] that he can go back to Trump and say, without lying, they’re sincere,” Pak said.

Other points of contention have to do with whether to include North Korea’s biological and chemical weapons in a deal and whether North Korea would be allowed to maintain a civilian nuclear or space program.

The Trump administration has cobbled together a new team of North Korea specialists, trying to make up for the exodus of seasoned experts during the tumultuous last year.

Sung Kim, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, has been temporarily reassigned from his post as envoy to the Philippines to lead a U.S. advance team now meeting a counterpart North Korean team in the buffer zone between the two Koreas. (The Trump administration has no ambassador in Seoul. Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, was nominated on May 18 and he awaits Senate confirmation.)

Andrew Kim, head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, formed last year when Pompeo was CIA director, has been assigned to work with the secretary of State. He accompanied Pompeo on his two trips to Pyongyangand is with him in New York.

While other teams are still working out logistics, the meetings in New York between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol on Wednesday and Thursday will deal with the substance of the proposed summit. They most likely will determine whether this on-again, off-again summit will actually take place.

Administration officials declined to discuss in detail the issues that Pompeo and Kim will debate in New York, but the potential agenda is wide open.

“Trump is focused on having a historic meeting, but unless that event translates into setting mutually defined objectives, it will be meaningless,’’ said Snyder.

The Rise of the Antichrist (Revelation 13)

Muqtada Al Sadr and me: From Iran ties to a pan-Arab hero

In Iraq’s 2018 May 12 national elections, Muqtada al-Sadr surprisingly emerged with the largest bloc of seats in the Parliamentary election. (AFP)

In Iraq’s 2018 May 12 national elections, Muqtada al-Sadr surprisingly emerged with the largest bloc of seats in the Parliamentary election and won the right to form a new government. The Iranian-backed Fatah alliance came in second and the current government, headed by PM Hayder al-Abadi, came in third.

Muqtada al-Sadr is not unknown to me. I remember his long journey from being an Iranian tied militia leader to a pan-Arab hero. In this piece, and the following one, I will provide what I know about him.

I lived in Maysan, Iraq where I worked for the United States State Department performing the Iraqi reconstruction. I was the Rule of Law advisor there providing material, coordination and other assistance to the rule of law structures like the police, the courts, the prisons, the human rights officers, the real estate offices, the law schools and other associations and official groups in the province.

Maysan Province is in the South of Iraq on the Iranian border. Everyone there is a Shi’ite and many were and still are Sadrists. I was quartered for those years on the US Army base known as Garry Owen. When I first arrived, the province had excellent leadership and the US Army had largely stepped aside allowing the Iraqi forces to manage their own province in their own way.

I remember LTG Saad was the Iraqi Chief of Police and was a larger than life character. He traveled with a large entourage and had many items of interest in his headquarters showing off his collection of martial artifacts.

Having been in the Army myself when I was much younger, I appreciated the General and personally liked him. Saad Harbiyah was the kind of guy to which mothers would lovingly caution their children to eat their vegetables and go to bed or “General Saad will come.” He was an object of respect in the province for his toughness and ability to keep the peace.

Spring of 2010

In the Spring of 2010, The US First Infantry Division came to Iraq to manage the four southernmost provinces, of which Maysan was one. The Deputy Commander for Maneuver came to Garry Owen and was displeased that the base still suffered an occasional rocket attack.

With no more information than his own opinion, he accused the command of being lazy and instituted a plan to end the attacks and reassert control.

He was warned by absolutely everyone that this was a bad idea. Undeterred, he assembled a SEAL team and tried to serve arrest warrants in a sleepy village of Ali al-Sharky. Ali al-Sharky was well understood to be the center of the Iran/Iraq smuggling corridor in Maysan.

To control this area would almost certainly stop the traffic of Iranian rockets into Iraq. The idea made sense but the US Army no longer had any authority to act as the police much less to serve warrants and make arrests

So, the US Army brought several members of the Iraqi Army along to make the mission look legal and together they set out to serve the warrants. No warrants were served but there was resistance and there were Iraqi fatalities.

Three days of rioting followed in al-Amarah, the central city of the province. By the time that the smoke cleared, the Governor was well on his way to being replaced and the Provincial Council was shattered. The Sadrists had gained the foothold that they had long sought and Maysan almost became an all-but-break-away Province.

Worst of all, LTG Saad was fired by the Provincial Council because he could not control “his friends” the Americans and was replaced with a Sadrists Police Chief who has no interest in helping the Americans or protecting them.

Garry Owen went from one or two attacks a month to that many a week and had escalated to several each day by the time I left in 2011.

Sadr’s success

This was Muqtada al-Sadr first real success. Essentially, he had a province of his own and gave the Iranians a foothold in Iraq.

Muqtada al-Sadr (or “Mookie” as the Army called him then) had been fomenting this move for years and just need the opportunity to force a takeover. The US Army obligingly offered their unintentional but effective assistance.

After the next national elections, Maysan was all-but-formally given to the Sadrists by the al-Maliki government. A Sadrist governor was installed and all formal associations with the Americans ended.

Garry Owen became a besieged island in the desert as opposed to the font of reconstruction it was before the Sadrist takeover. We still worked occasionally with the local authorities but formal interaction at the Provincial level was ended, permanently.

Iran had its foothold and Sadr, at the end, had provided.

My next piece will tackle this topic: Al Sadr then and now, the difference between an Iranian agent and a pan-Arab hero.
Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. He sat on the Committees on the Judiciary, Government Reform and Oversight, and Veterans’ Affairs. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. After leaving Congress, Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael took a sabbatical from his lobbying business and entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For his work, Michael was awarded the Man of the Year by the Iraqi Courts, the Civilian Service Medal by the US Army and was also given the Individual Distinguished Honor Award. Michael is currently a consultant in Washington, D.C.

Last Update: Wednesday, 30 May 2018 KSA 11:52 – GMT 08:52

Save the Oil and the Wine (Revelation 6:6)

Pumpjacks pump petroleum from the ground on September 23, 2014 near Ruehlermoor, Germany. Iran’s exit from nuclear weapons treaty would pour ‘rocket fuel’ on oil market, says analyst

Oil market is ignoring the big Iran story, says strategist  


The U.S. exit from the Iran nuclear deal creates the risk that Iran will drop out of a separate 50-year-old United Nations treaty meant to stop the spread of atomic weapons, according to Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

Oil prices have recently surged to 3½-year highs, fueled the U.S. nuclear deal pullout and falling output in Venezuela. However, crude prices began tumbling last week after Saudi Arabia and Russia said two dozen oil-producing nations could soon ease output caps that have been in place since January 2017.

But fears of nuclear weapons proliferation in the restive Middle East could quickly reverse that drop, according to Croft.

An Iranian official threatened last week to pull out of the U.N. Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which has sought to prevent the spread of atomic weapons since 1968. Iran signed the treaty that year, but the nation’s leadership in Tehran is now in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal and restored punishing sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

“If they come to believe that the U.S. and the regional partners are pursuing regime change, I think we could get a very nasty Iranian response.” -Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets global head of commodity strategy

“I think this is the question the market is ignoring right now. I would watch very closely the Iranian announcement to pull out of the nonproliferation treaty,” Croft told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday. “If they pull out of the NPT, that would signal that not only are the Iranians going to resume their program, they’re resuming it with a military option.”

“And then it would become, I think, an arms race in the Middle East,” she added.

In March, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his country would obtain a nuclear weapon “as soon as possible” if Iran, the kingdom’s archrival, developed one. Israel, which has recently engaged in open conflict with Iran, is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons already.

Iran came under international criticism in the early 2000s and was later sanctioned for its alleged research into nuclear weapons development while ostensibly pursuing a peaceful energy program. After years of diplomacy, Iran reached a deal with six world powers that lifted the sanctions in exchange for Tehran accepting limits on its nuclear program and allowing inspectors into the country.

Under the NPT, countries without nuclear weapons like Iran vow never to acquire them. The 2015 nuclear deal — negotiated with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the Obama administration — subjected Iran to extra scrutiny in order to re-establish trust with the international community.

An Iranian military truck carries surface-to-air missiles past a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade on the occasion of the country's annual army day on April 18, 2018, in Tehran.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images
An Iranian military truck carries surface-to-air missiles past a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade on the occasion of the country’s annual army day on April 18, 2018, in Tehran.

But the pressure campaign now being waged by the Trump administration could push Iran to abandon both the nuclear deal and the NPT, Croft said. The European Union is trying to preserve the 2015 deal, but America’s influence over the global financial system means many European companies may toe the U.S. line, despite the EU’s efforts to shield them from far-reaching sanctions.

Iran’s economy is already weakening, spurring protests over corruption in the banking system and other grievances. This year, Iran’s currency has collapsed, and its uncertain how Iran will respond to the added pressure from a loss of international business, said Croft.

“If they come to believe that the U.S. and the regional partners are pursuing regime change, I think we could get a very nasty Iranian response,” she said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s first major speech last week drew speculation that the administration’s policy is indeed to topple the nearly 40-year-old regime in Tehran. While Pompeo has sought to tamp down that speculation, the Iranians may not be convinced, said John Kilduff, founding partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital.

“They’re like playing a game of Jenga, where you push the blocks out, because they’re hoping for the regime to tip over,” he told “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday.

“And as much as European Union officials are trying to say that they want to have a workaround against these U.S. sanctions, all the companies, the banks and the oil companies, are all in the process of pulling out and saying we’re not touching that with a 10-foot pole.”

Saudis back in control

Helima Croft talks about Saudi Arabia and Russia's impact on the oil market

Helima Croft talks about Saudi Arabia and Russia’s impact on the oil market  

Both Croft and Kilduff said Trump’s pullout has given Saudi Arabia the upper hand in the oil market. Trump essentially made a bargain to pull out of the Iran deal so long as the Saudis agreed to increase oil output to offset any price spike that resulted from the loss of Iranian crude supplies, according to Croft.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently told reporters the United States held discussions with “various parties” to pump more to offset falling Iranian exports, which could raise gasoline prices for American drivers.

“We’re back hat in hand to the Saudis saying put more barrels on the market,” Croft said.

“This is the issue, is that the U.S. cannot deal with a supply shock. We have to go back to countries that hold spare capacity. So when Venezuela potentially loses over the course of a year a million barrels, if we take off several hundred additional Iranian barrels, Saudi Arabia has to fill the gap.”

While the United States is pumping about 10.7 million barrels a day — overtaking Saudi Arabia and closing in on top producer Russia — bottlenecks in western Texas will prevent American drillers from fully compensating for lost Iranian supplies, Kilduff said.

“If there’s one thing this episode should tell us all, we are not the swing producer. Saudi Arabia is,” he said. “They’re more in control now than I’ve ever seen.”

The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)



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.

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.

The Art of the Deal – Part 4

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his entourage including Kim Yong Chol, left, at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone on April 27.Trump Confirms North Korean Official Is Headed To New York To Discuss Nuclear Summit

The Trump administration said preparations for the summit are moving ahead after it was abruptly canceled last week.

President Donald Trump confirmed on Tuesday that Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, was on his way to New York to discuss a proposed nuclear summit between the countries.

Kim plans to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sometime this week, according to the White House.

Trump canceled the summit, set to take place on June 12 in Singapore, on Thursday, citing “the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed” in a statement North Korea had released that attacked the U.S. Trump changed his tune a day later, hinting the summit could still take place.

“We’re talking to them now,” he said Friday. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

American and North Korean officials have been conducting a series of meetings that were ongoing as of Tuesday, the White House confirmed, adding that a team is already in Singapore preparing for the summit.

Kim will be the highest-level North Korean official to step foot in the country since 2000. Currently in charge of inter-Korean relations, he was the longtime head of North Korea’s intelligence agency, making him one of leader Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisers.

South Korea blamed him for the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean military ship, in 2010, which killed 46 South Koreans.

He attended the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics earlier this year as part of the North Korean delegation and was photographed sitting next to White House adviser Ivanka Trump, the president’s oldest daughter, during the opening ceremony.

This story has been updated with details about Kim.

Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol of the North Korea delegation attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics o

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Ivanka Trump and Kim Yong Chol of the North Korea delegation attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25.

Antichrist Rejects Help from Babylon the Great

Workers assemble a portrait of Muqtada al-Sadr at a printing shop in Sadr city. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Muqtada al-Sadr, the kingmaker in Iraqi politics, outright rejected US influence in the formation of the government, but took a more lenient approach to Iran.

Sadr, who is an influential Shiite cleric and frequently answers queries posed to him from individual Iraqis about religious, political, and cultural affairs, was asked how he responds to some statements that the Iraqi government cannot be formed without the assent of Tehran and Washington.

“America is an occupying country. We absolutely won’t allow it to intervene,” Sadr replied in a tweet.

With respect to Iran, he noted that as a neighbor, it has regional interests.

“Iran is a neighboring country concerned for its interests. We hope it doesn’t intervene in Iraqi affairs and we reject anyone interfering in its affairs,” he stated.

In the week after the election, Sadr met with ambassadors of all of Iraq’s neighbours – Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait – except for Iran.

Sadr previously led the Mahdi Army that fought against US forces in the 2000’s, killing tens of US soldiers. He disbanded the group later, forming the Peace Brigades militia in 2014.

In the May 12 parliamentary election, he adopted a reform-minded, secular approach, forming an alliance with Iraq’s communist party. He is opposed to any external influence in Baghdad.

Sadr’s alliance topped the polls, though no single list gained a strong minority. Party leaders have held a flurry of meetings in the weeks after the vote as they negotiate formation of the next government.

Iran’s powerful general Qassem Soleimani and the US’ special envoy to the war on ISIS Brett McGurk both visited Iraq after the election, meeting with political parties.

The US has made contact with Sadr’s team through back channels.

“They asked what the position of the Sadrist movement will be when they come to power. Are they going to reinvent or invoke the Mahdi Army or reemploy them? Are they going to attack American forces in Iraq,” Dhiaa al-Asadi, a top aide to Sadr, told Reuters.

Sadr stressed that the snippets of information coming out on Twitter are not a comprehensive look at the government-in-formation.

“Yes states can’t be built and governments can’t be formed through Twitter or tweets. These are only glimmers I transmit to the Iraqi people,” he tweeted in answer to another query.

Antichrist Rejects Foreign Influence (Revelation 13)

Muqtada al-Sadr  (Twitter)

Muqtada al-Sadr Rejects Iran and U.S. Meddling in Formation of Iraqi Govt