Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Business Sense Betrays Him

Trump Says He Would Meet With Iranian Leader, but Iran Rules It Out

By The New York Times0 : 44

“I’m Ready to Meet,” Trump Tells Iran

President Trump signaled his willingness to talk a week after threatening Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, on Twitter.


By Michael D. Shear and Rick Gladstone

July 30, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump, who walked away from a nuclear deal with Iran despite that country’s documented compliance, said Monday that he would meet with President Hassan Rouhani with “no preconditions” as soon as the Iranian leader agreed to do so.

But hours before Mr. Trump spoke, Iran said that talks with the United States would be impossible under what it called the Trump administration’s hostile policies, seeming to close the door on any chance of a dialogue.

Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy that he was open to meeting with Iran.

“I’ll meet with anybody,” Mr. Trump said. “If they want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want.”

Mr. Trump compared the possibility of a face-to-face summit meeting with the Iranian leader to meetings he has held with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“You meet,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s nothing wrong with meeting.”

But a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani anytime soon is exceedingly unlikely, especially given the anger among Iranian leaders over Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the nuclear deal that Iran negotiated over the course of several years with the Obama administration and five other nations. Bahram Qassemi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, made that clear on Monday during a news conference in Tehran.

“With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable,” Mr. Qassemi said at the news conference, which was carried by Iran’s state news media.

Given the American repudiation of the nuclear agreement and the restored sanctions, Mr. Qassemi said, “I think there are no conditions for such a discussion at all.”

Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose economic sanctions has been pummeling the value of Iran’s currency and raising the sense of economic crisis in the nation of 80 million. The currency, the rial, has lost half of its value in the past few months.

The Iranians remain a part of the nuclear deal with the other nations — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — giving them little reason to think that a meeting with Mr. Trump would be to its advantage. Last week on Twitter, Mr. Trump said threats from Iran would be met by “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Mr. Trump followed up his tweet to Mr. Rouhani with an offer to engage Iran’s leaders in negotiations for new nuclear agreement that he described as a “real deal.”

The nuclear agreement, reached in 2015 by Iran, the United States and other major powers, eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities and Iran’s verifiable promises to never attain atomic weapons.

Mr. Trump has called the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a disaster that would not stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Iran has repeatedly denied that it will seek nuclear weapons.

The other parties to the agreement, including American allies in Europe, have said they want it to succeed. But few see such an outcome without the United States’ participation.

Even if the Iranian leadership was receptive to a meeting with Mr. Trump, the president’s national security team appears to be roundly opposed to the idea. In fact, advisers to the president have recently sounded more interested in hastening the end of the Iranian government.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech in which he sided with the Iranian people against what he called the “hypocritical holy men” leading their country.

It was also unclear what Mr. Trump believes he could accomplish by meeting with Mr. Rouhani. He has railed against the government’s support of terrorism and has vowed — as have previous American presidents — to not allow Iran to ever fully develop a nuclear weapon.

At Monday’s news conference, Mr. Trump said that “the brutal regime in Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never.”

But in saying that he would meet with his counterpart in Iran “anytime,” the president vaguely added that he would do so only if “we could work something out that’s meaningful, not the waste of paper that the other deal was.”

He did not elaborate on what that might be.

After Mr. Trump’s comments, Mr. Pompeo said that he supports the president’s desire to have a meeting with Mr. Rouhani and that Mr. Trump was focused on doing whatever was necessary “to solve problems.”

But unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Pompeo listed a series of preconditions that the Iranian leader would have to meet before such a meeting. Mr. Pompeo said that Mr. Rouhani would have to “demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation.”

If the Iranians could agree to those terms, Mr. Pompeo said, a meeting with Mr. Trump could be productive.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have intensified since Mr. Trump formally renounced the agreement in May. He has also warned other countries that under the restored sanctions, they must stop buying Iranian oil, the country’s most important export.

Iranian leaders have hinted that they might block international oil shipments from the Persian Gulf in retaliation.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

Is the Donald Preparing to Bomb Iran?

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton, speaks to the media at a press conference on the second day of the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Trump Ready to Bomb Iran Within One Month: Australian Govt Sources

New reporting from Australia’s ABC news comes amid warning that “Trump’s reckless threats” should not be ignored

byAndrea Germanos, staff

Friday, July 27, 2018

Trump’s White House is ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, unnamed “senior figures” within the Australian government said to ABC news.

According to the new reporting from the Australian news service, the strike could happen as early as next month, and Australia and the U.K.—both part of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance— could lend a hand in identifying targets, the reporting adds.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, for his part, dismissed the report, saying, “It’s speculation, it is citing anonymous sources.”

News of the alleged bombing preparation caps off a week President Donald Trump began with an all-caps tweet to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he tweeted, following Rouhani’s warning for the U.S. not to “play with the lion’s tail” and saying, “Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who played a key role in the 2015 nuclear deal Trump “recklessly” pulled out of, shot back with his own tweet, saying in part, “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED.”

Trump did, however, tone down the rhetoric on Tuesday, saying, “We’ll see what happens, but we’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster.”

Still, argues Trita Parsi, author of Losing an Enemy—Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy and the president of the National Iranian American Council, “Trump’s reckless threats” should not be ignored.

“Going forward, the moderate voices inside the Trump White House will essentially be absent, while new advisers will likely egg on Trump to escalate tensions further—even though the Trump administration continues to claim that its goal is not regime change,” he wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday at CNN.

“All of this amounts to a sobering reality,” Parsi continued. “Trump is embarking on a path of escalation without having the exit ramps he had with North Korea. The danger now is not to overestimate the risk of war, but to underestimate it.”

Antichrist Continues to Form New Iraqi Government


Iraq coalition talks still under way amid election recount


Meanwhile, demonstrators in eight Iraqi provinces are demanding better access to water, electricity, and jobs.


Negotiations are still under way to form a governing coalition in Iraq.

No party won a majority during May’s national election, and the result is not yet confirmed, because a manual recount was called over allegations of vote rigging. The parties trying to lead Iraq have major differences in their attitudes towards the United States and Iran.

But the big winner in Iraq’s contested election is expected to be Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who confidently expects his party to lead the next government once the revised result has been confirmed by the country’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, protests, which began in the oil-rich southern city of Basra in early July, have spread to eight Iraqi provinces, leading al-Sadr to call on all the winning lists of Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election to suspend government formation talks until the demands of protesters are met.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from Baghdad.

The Indian Nuclear Horn (Revelation 8)


According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) India has a stockpile of more than a 100 warheads. Its desire to match the nuclear warhead capabilities of China and Pakistan has prompted Indian planners to invest in a top secret project of establishing a nuclear city at Chellakere, Karnataka.

It had been exposed in 2012 that apart from many facilities, India has built the ‘secret nuclear city’. It was confirmed by independent researchers and Indian media that two secretive agencies were behind this project which is believed to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, weapons and aircraft testing facilities.

New Delhi has generally kept all information pertaining to its nuclear capabilities under wraps. Whatever information on the Indian nuclear city of Chellakere is available, has been gleaned from international and Indian media reports.

As a military facility, it is not open to international inspection. Since 2009, organs of Indian government managed to discreetly acquire more than 10,000 acres of land in Chellakere. News leaked out, when the residents of the area, poor shepherds were deprived of grazing grounds for their cattle, filed a report in the court for the deprivation of their livelihood. Chellakeretaluk has been home to Amrit Mahal Kavals or grazing grounds, on which more than 250,000 goats, cows, bulls and sheep found food. About 300,000 people depended on these grounds for their source of revenue.

According to Raksha Kumar’s Op-Ed of May 18, 2018 in The News Minute, Srikumar Banerjee, the then chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission in 2011, spoke about the project obliquely. He stated that the facility would be used to produce nuclear fuel to boost India’s nuclear energy sources.

When the shepherds were barred from taking their cattle to the grazing grounds, the villagers filed a lawsuit at the Karnataka High Court demanding a complete accounting of the pasture land. To their dismay, they were informed by the state land registry that of the 10,000 acres, Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) had been allotted 4,290 acres, Indian Institute of Science (IIS) was given 1500 acres, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre had received 1810 acres while Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was given 575 acres and some sundry lands were diverted to Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Corporation.

According to news published in a US journal; the secret city being operated by DRDO is called the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR). It is being said that the nuclear scientists are secretly working here day and night. The American journal published the report about the construction of the secret nuclear city by India on the basis of the image captured by the American Space Agency “NASA”. The spokesperson of the NASA said that the captured satellite image is more similar to a nuclear plant. Quoting retired Indian government officials and independent experts sitting in London and Washington; the US journal claims that the prime motive of India behind this secret city is to give itself an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons.

It had been exposed in 2012 that apart from many facilities, India has built the ‘secret nuclear city’. It was confirmed by independent researchers and Indian media that two secretive agencies were behind this project which is believed to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, weapons and aircraft testing facilities


The expansion of India’s thermonuclear program would position the country alongside the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, France, and Israel which already have significant stockpiles of such weapons. Despite the fact that the Indian government has denied the existence of any such secret nuclear facility being under construction, Indian media and retired Indian military analysts and scientists have confirmed its existence. The project aims: to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new nuclear submarines.

According to Indian media reports, the nuclear city close to Chellakere is ringed by a security perimeter of thousands of military and paramilitary guards. The existence of India’s secret nuclear city highlights India’s ambitions to become a world power. Its excuse of matching the nuclear arsenal of China and Pakistan does not cut ice, since numbers matter little in achieving a credible nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear warheads and reliable delivery systems with adequate ranges are enough to serve as deterrence; one does not have to match missile for missile, warhead for warhead, and trigger mechanism for trigger mechanism.

India is welcome to its ambitions; every country has its dreams of grandeur but these should not be at the cost of peace in the region and depriving its populace of their livelihood. Its military doctrine is definitely offensive but India should be mindful of accelerating an arms race in the region and further provoking both China and Pakistan, with whom its relations are strained. India had to draw down its forces from Doklam earlier while facing Chinese troops. With Pakistan, India is constantly indulging in cross border shelling causing casualties.

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on China

Published in Daily Times, July 29th 2018.

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

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

By Bob Hennelly

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  Ramapo 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.

The Idiocy of Trump’s Nuclear Policy

US-Iran nuclear tensions: Why is Donald Trump engaged in a war of words with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani?

Firebrand president issues strongly-worded tweet warning Tehran ‘never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences’

Joe Sommerlad

The Independent Online

Donald Trump has again taken to Twitter to enter a war of words with a rival world leader.

Having previously traded insults with North Korean president Kim Jong-un, including a row over who has the biggest red nuclear button, the US president has turned his attention to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani.

The feud relates to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the deal struck in 2015 with the Barack Obama administration, which saw international sanctions against the Middle Eastern power eased in exchange for its agreeing to greatly reduce its nuclear programme, the subject of Western suspicions since 2003.

What was said?

At a meeting of Tehran’s diplomatic corps, President Rouhani was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars”.

He also warned the US was “playing with the lion’s tail” in provoking Iran.

Angry enough to tweet his response with his caps lock on, President Trump wrote:


Why are US-Iran relations so tense?

Western powers and the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) have long feared that Iranian enrichment of uranium as part of its nuclear power generation programme was really being undertaken for use in the secret construction of a weapon of mass destruction.

The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has consistently denied this, saying that the building of such a bomb would contravene Islamic strictures.

After halting enrichment as a gesture of good faith in 2003, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quietly ramped up production before severing ties with the IAEA and its inspectors three years later. The UN Security Council responded by unanimously voting in favour of economic sanctions against Tehran in December 2006.

Suspicion over Iran’s intentions and an atmosphere of mutual mistrust prevailed until the EU announced a ban on the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum in January 2012, a significant financial blow.

New president Hassan Rouhani reiterated Ayatollah Khamenei’s stance in an address to the UN General Assembly in September 2013: “Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.”

In July 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to control Iranian nuclear activity developed by the US, China, the UK, France, Germany and Russia was signed but, by the following spring, Tehran had begun testing ballistic missiles.

The new US president’s short-lived national security chief Michael Flynn said Iran was “on notice” as a result of the tests in January 2017, a prelude to Donald Trump’s decertification of US compliance in the agreement in May 2018, arguing it was never in America’s best interests and “the worst deal ever”.

In the interim, Mr Rouhani described his new adversary as a “rogue newcomer to the world of politics” and the pair have meanwhile clashed over other issues, including the US decision to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and introduce a ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from travelling to the US.

Could Iran develop a nuclear weapon?

Tehran has the centrifuges in place to enrich uranium for use in nuclear power generation, but whether its ultimate intentions for the technology are benign or more sinister remains the great unknown from a Western perspective.

The recent run of mid-range missile testing appears an ominous sign of the regime’s military ambitions but, prior to the 2015 deal, the country had only enriched the mineral to 20 per cent purity so it would need to massively ramp up production to be able to reach the 90 per cent needed to achieve weapons-grade potential.

In signing that agreement, Tehran also agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile by 98 per cent and cut its total number of centrifuges from 20,000 by two-thirds so significant rebuilding would be required, a process designed to take at least 12 months, giving the international community plenty of notice.

Whether its scientists even have the necessary expertise in place to carry out such a plan has been called into question, notably by the IAEA in a 2015 report.

The threat of sanctions are also a powerful deterrent. Many Iranians were optimistic about the Islamic Republic’s potential as an emerging market primed for growth when the 2015 deal was signed but the US withdrawal under President Trump risks leaving the country isolated once more.

Another is the regional military threat posed by Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which have ballistic missiles of their own capable of striking Iran, which does not at present even have a meaningful air force with which to retaliate.

Raining On the Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

If the US nuclear umbrella folds … The choices for Australia

24 Jul 2018|Malcolm Davis

Rod Lyon’s thought-provoking article in The Strategist concludes with a sobering choice for Australian defence planners considering a post–San Francisco world without US extended nuclear deterrence, and suggests two basic choices for Australia, Japan and South Korea:

They can either head down the path of developing indigenous nuclear arsenals, or they can attempt to dilute the advantages that nuclear weapons confer—advantages which would otherwise accrue to a set of states that did not wish them well.

Both Japan and South Korea have the technological means to rapidly develop independent nuclear deterrent capabilities, though neither state would have strong popular support for such a move. For Australia, it’s a bit more complicated. The issue of Australia ‘going nuclear’ has already been considered in numerous articles, and 2018 began with a bang in The Strategist with a discussion on Australia’s nuclear options by key authors such as Hugh White, Andrew Davies and Stephan Frueling, and in an ASPI Strategic Insights report by Paul Dibb and Richard Brabin-Smith. I contributed my thoughts, too.

The complexity and cost of getting the warheads and acquiring a credible delivery system would probably push Australian defence spending well past the 2% GDP target that we currently aspire to. Maybe President Donald Trump’s proposed 4% GDP target for NATO would be more appropriate as a starting point for an Australia considering nuclear weapons.

There would be political consequences for Australia of moving away from its traditional policy of fully supporting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Australia would violate the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty in getting nuclear weapons. Any Australian move towards nuclear weapons could prompt counter-responses from our immediate neighbours and accelerate the erosion of non-proliferation norms.

If we had to go nuclear, we’d not only need the infrastructure to develop and then sustain the nuclear forces we acquired (which means significant upfront and ongoing investment); we’d also have to think seriously about Australian nuclear strategy and doctrine to ensure we did deter effectively. Nuclear weapons and deterrence is a deadly serious business—it’s not about bluffing. An Australian nuclear option would have to embrace a warfighting capacity that we’d need to be willing to use.

The most obvious choice for force structure would be continuous at-sea deterrence on submarines. But the Shortfin Barracuda SSK isn’t designed for nuclear deterrence, and adding such a capability could limit its operational and tactical flexibility. And it takes time to develop such a capability, so if events continue to move quickly, we might simply be too late to respond and too slow to act.

If nuclear weapons are challenging, what about alternatives? Rod talks about trying to ‘dilute the advantages that nuclear weapons confer’. How Australia might achieve that objective goes to the question of whether non-nuclear capabilities can effectively deter nuclear threats.

A ballistic missile defence (BMD) system is commonly seen to be a non-nuclear counter to nuclear threats, but in reality the advantage always goes to the offence. It’s cheaper to build more missiles or equip existing missiles with MIRV capabilities and overwhelm missile defences. US national missile defence is hideously expensive and not that effective. Even the US Navy’s ship-based SM-3 interceptors are tested only under highly controlled conditions.

Certainly, there are options that under the right circumstances could allow pre-emptive strikes ‘left of launch’ to prevent use of nuclear weapons. That would demand intelligence which is persistent and penetrating of an adversary’s leadership and command and control, and that is exceedingly difficult with likely major power threats. It would also demand a prompt-strike capability, based on either effective offensive cyberwarfare or forward-deployed precision kinetic strikes against missiles. There’s no guarantee that such a capability could be developed, even by the United States, let alone Australia.

Rather than trying to counter nuclear threats symmetrically, an indirect and asymmetric approach might be better. Australia could consider acquiring the means to prevent a major-power adversary from projecting power against our vital strategic interests, including our air and maritime approaches, by developing anti-access and area denial (A2AD) capabilities that focus on the South China Sea and exploit vital maritime straits and chokepoints throughout Southeast Asia.

Australian A2AD would ideally focus on a tactical and operational offensive attack at source rather than maintain a traditional defence-in-depth strategy. It would imply the ADF acquiring substantial air and sea capabilities suitable for rapid long-range strikes with precision non-nuclear weapons in sufficient mass to generate a meaningful effect, alongside developing more robust cyber and electronic warfare attack capabilities.

The objective would be to rob an opponent of the military capability needed not only to project power aggressively against us, but also to weaken it in comparison with other regional actors, such that it then would be poorly placed to defend its other strategic interests. Striking at vital interests of the opponent could also imply attacking national economic resilience in a way that threatens the political survival of a regime. Together, these factors could raise the cost of aggression to unacceptable levels, and thus, hopefully, deter such aggression, without resort to nuclear weapons.

The problem with this indirect strategy is that it would require a substantial expansion of the ADF at great cost, and take considerable time. The nominal 2% of GDP target of the 2016 defence white paper would easily be breached. There’s also a risk that an adversary with far larger forces could do the same to us, and, as a smaller actor, we’re likely to be less resilient. Finally, in the absence of an Australian nuclear-weapons capability, the nuclear-armed major-power adversary always has escalation dominance.

Rod’s initial question therefore stands and poses a strategic dilemma for Australia in an unpredictable outlook. We could develop a combination of alternatives—BMD (accepting its limitations), ‘left of launch’ pre-emption, and A2AD—in the absence of US extended nuclear deterrence, at great cost. Yet that still leaves us potentially facing a serious nuclear threat with no guarantee that these non-nuclear options will work as an effective deterrent in a major crisis.


Malcolm Davis is a senior analyst at ASPI.

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

Palestinian protesters gather as tear gas canisters are launched by Israeli forces during a demonstration along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, July 27, 2018. AFP

Three Palestinians, Including 2 Teens, Said Dead in Gaza Border Protest

90 Palestinians wounded by live fire, Gaza ministry says ■ IDF says struck group of Gazans who threw firebombs toward Israel ■ UN’s Middle East envoy: ‘killing of Palestinian boy by Israeli fire in Gaza is shocking and tragic’

Jack KhouryYaniv Kubovich

28.07.2018 | 10:51

Three Palestinian demonstrators, including two teenagers, were killed by Israeli army fire during Friday’s protests along the Israel-Gaza border, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. Muamen Fathi Elhamas, 17-year-old from Rafah, succumbed to his wounds Saturday morning, according to the health ministry. Those killed Friday were identified as Majdi al-Satri, 12, and Razi Abu Mustafa, 43.

Muamen Fathi Elhamas,17.

According to the ministry, a total of 264 Palestinian demonstrators were injured in clashes, 90 of whom were wounded by live fire. Of those wounded, tenare in serious condition.

On Saturday, UN’s Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov slammed Israel over the killing of the 12-year-old Palestinian, writing on Twitter that Israeli fire in Gaza is both “shocking and tragic,” and “it’s time for this to stop.”

Yesterday’s killing of a 12 year old #Palestinian boy by #Israeli fire in #Gaza is shocking and tragic. Children are #NotATarget! Too many lives have been lost. Its time for this to stop. My hearfelt thought and prayers go out to the bereaved family.

— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) July 28, 2018

Nickolay E. MLADENOV


Yesterday’s killing of a 12 year old #Palestinian boy by #Israeli fire in #Gaza is shocking and tragic. Children are #NotATarget! Too many lives have been lost. Its time for this to stop. My hearfelt thought and prayers go out to the bereaved family.

According to a report in Gaza, a tank fired at a Hamas target in eastern Gaza City. No casualties were reported.

Palestinian protesters carry a youth injured during a demonstration along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, July 27, 2018. Mahmud Hams/AFP Photo

Later on Friday evening, the Israeli military said it struck an observation post in northern Gaza in response to shots fired at Israeli forces. The strike caused no casualties or damage, the IDF added.

According to the IDF, some 7,000 Palestinians participated in demonstrations along the border, with several violent riots breaking out in which protesters threw stones and tear gas canisters, and burned tires.

A firebomb was found in an Israeli community in the Eshkol Regional Council near the border, which caused a small fire to break out. A second blaze erupted outside a greenhouse in the same area and minor damage to infrastructure was reported.

A Palestinian nurse reacts upon seeing the body of her husband who was killed by Israeli troops during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, southern Gaza Strip, July 27, 2018. \ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

A number of protesters damaged the border fence before turning back and returning to the Strip, the IDF said, adding that it responded with riot-dispersal methods and live fire in accordance with regulations.

The IDF intends to respond with extra force against any attempt to damage the border fence or throw grenades or explosive devices at soldiers in order to make it clear to Hamas that it is a violation of the ceasefire reached earlier in July.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the situation during a visit to an Israeli community near the Gaza border, saying: “We really do not want to be drawn into a war, we are doing everything to prevent a wide-ranging campaign, but the ball is in the other court, not in ours.”

Lieberman added: “I strongly recommend to Hamas, also with regards to this weekend, to act wisely and quietly and not to force us to do that which we know how to do, but do not want to do.”

Based on data provided by authorities in Gaza, the most recent deaths bring the number of demonstrators who have been killed since border protests began at the end of March to 152.

Palestinians react next to a wounded man during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 27, 2018. \ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

Babylon the Great must be careful with Iran

PHILIP A. DUR: We must be careful with Iran

This combination of two pictures shows U.S. President Donald Trump, left, on July 22 and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Feb. 6. In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on Sunday, July 22 that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences. This was after Iranian President Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that ìAmerican must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.î Trump tweeted: ìNEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.î [ AP ]

By Philip A. Dur | Guest Columnist

Posted at 9:00 AM

The recent decision by the president to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran Nuclear Deal, has rekindled debates about the merits of the agreement and the implications of our withdrawal for the future. To begin with, let’s posit here that the deal was imperfect in its content and unworkable as a check on Iran’s ambitions. Let us also note in passing that the agreement negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and “approved” by President Obama, was not binding on President Trump because it was never ratified by the Senate — as all real treaties must be pursuant to our Constitution. It was not submitted for ratification precisely because it certainly would have failed!

In the first place, the limits on Iran’s push to a nuclear capability to compliment its advanced missile delivery systems will expire in less than 15 years, with no restrictions beyond the agreed timeline. In the second place, what is there to prevent Iran in the meantime from covertly acquiring warheads to fit on their ballistic missiles from others potential collaborators, say North Korea or even Pakistan? After all, both of these countries have collaborated in the past to export their nuclear technology to Iraq and Syria, for example.

The most egregious and fatal flaw in the agreement was the refusal of the parties to make the removal of sanctions on Iran contingent on stopping its criminal behavior. The signatories knew that Iran was and is a major sponsor of international terrorist groups including Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon and Syria. Iranian agents have ventured so far as to blow up a synagogue in distant Argentina. The parties obviously accepted these facts as givens and not negotiable in the “deal.”

As Premier Netanyahu told a joint session of Congress, Iran with nukes and missiles poses an existential threat to Israel, and only a slightly less portentous threat to the Arab states in the Persian Gulf. But there is much more in the malevolent history of the Ayatollah-led Islamic Republic:

• the capture and destruction of our embassy in Teheran in 1979, and the brutal imprisonment of our embassy staff during the Carter years.

• the explosive attacks on our embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983 and 1984 killing more than 25 of our personnel.

• the destruction of the Marine barracks and the death of 241 Marines, sailors, and soldiers (and 58 French military) in Beirut in October 1983.

• the capture, imprisonment, torture, and murder of several American officials in Lebanon in 1984-85.

• the attack on the Kohbar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, in 1994, which took the lives of 20 U.S. Air Force personnel billeted there.

• the transfer of sophisticated Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) to Shiite militias in Iraq which resulted in a significant toll of US forces in Iraq.

Let us reflect on the fact that successive administrations did not retaliate forcefully in response to these murderous Iranian-sponsored attacks on Americans. Let us also take note that the favorite chant heard at pro-government demonstrations in Iran after the JCPOA was signed by our Secretary of State was “Death to America!”

To be clear, in cancelling the agreement and reimposing tough sanctions on Iran and other countries that do business there, we run a clear risk that Iran will resume work on nuclear weapons. We may also see a surge in Iranian-sponsored terrorist activity in Israel, Lebanon, Syria and beyond. And there could be a rise in public discontent in Iran as a result of a deteriorating economic situation.

On balance these outcomes are difficult, but manageable.

I believe that we have the military wherewithal to block the construction and coupling of nuclear payloads to Iranian missiles, however deep the tunnels that Iran uses to conceal this type of activity. In addition, critics of the action taken by the current administration point to Iran’s threat to close the straits of Hormuz in retaliation for a disarming attack. As unlikely as this seems, this too is a manageable threat. Where terrorist actions are concerned, we are not alone in countering them. Israel is watchful and skilled in responding to Iranian-led terrorism in their immediate neighborhood (Even the much criticized Russian government has expressed an interest in controlling Iranian sponsored threats to Israel!).

Finally, our fight is emphatically not with the Iranian people. If dissent against the Ayatollahs deepens and the people rise up — as they did against the late Shah in 1977 — and unlike the last administration’s “turn away” from the protesters after the elections in 2009, this time we might encourage the opposition and even help the cause. Of course with all the politically charged outrage with foreign interference in our own politics, we should probably tread very cautiously here.

Philip A. Dur, PhD, is a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (retired) and a Destin resident. He can be reached at philhu76@gmail.com.