Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)

Published: October 24, 1989
AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.
The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.
But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.
For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”
If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California.Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.
Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.
The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”
On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.
Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.
The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.
No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.
The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.
The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.
Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.
Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower. 
Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California,  said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more  vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.
The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”
 Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.
Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.
Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.
”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.
New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.
Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.
As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.
New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.
”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”
For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.
”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”
In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.
Tunnels Vulnerable
The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.
Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.
”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”
Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?
”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Iran is nuclear ready: Daniel 8

Iran says prepares uranium enrichment of 20 pct purity

TEHRAN, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — The Chief of the Presidential Staff of Iran, Mahmoud Vaezi, said Wednesday that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is making preparations for 20-percent uranium enrichment, Iran Press news website reported.

Vaezi added that the AEOI would produce 120 kg of enriched uranium at the purity of 20 percent in a year.

On Dec. 1, the Iranian parliament passed a bill urging the government to implement a number of steps, including a boost in Iran’s uranium enrichment, in case the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement, namely Britain, France and Germany, fail to protect Iran’s interests amid U.S. energy and banking sanctions. Enditem

The fallacy of a limited nuclear war: Revelation 8

Lessons from pandemic-nuclear weapons nexus for survival in 2021

As Earth hurtled around the Sun at over 100,000km per hour, humans were rudely reminded in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic that no-one is in charge ― or rather, nature is in charge.

Humanity faces many intertwined global problems in 2021. The short list includes climate change, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, biochemical pollution, overpopulation, demographic aging, food insecurity, water scarcity, disease and pandemics. These problems are both cause and effect of extreme poverty, inequality, forced migration, and social conflict that leads to war.

Hovering above all these inter-twined global problems is the truly existential threat of nuclear war. Nuclear war is the most immediate and direct extinction trap into which the species could fall.

Even a “small” nuclear war ― for example, between India and Pakistan, or the United States and the DPRK ― could induce a long winter, global famine, and would put pay to any possibility of the global cooperation needed to solve all the other global problems afflicting humanity.

Yet unlike other global problems, nuclear weapons are uniquely and 100 percent human-made. The RECNA Nuclear Warhead Data Monitoring Team at Nagasaki University estimates that as of June 2020, nine nuclear armed states maintain 13,410 nuclear warheads ― enough for about one ton of TNT-equivalent explosive power for every human alive today.

By the same token, the threat of nuclear war is one global problem that can be solved, relatively quickly, and ultimately, forever. Northeast Asia, where the pandemic likely increases the risk of nuclear war, is a case in point. COVID-19 may destabilize nuclear commands and ravage nuclear and conventional forces and, destabilize nuclear-prone conflicts at a time when tension should be reduced, not increased.

To reduce this risk, the Nagasaki 75th Anniversary Pandemic-Nuclear Nexus Scenarios project concluded that leaders in this region must, among many other urgent measures,

― Slow and reverse nuclear force developments and operations in the Northeast Asian region, including through nuclear-weapon-free zones and nonproliferation treaties

― Develop a secure, reliable nuclear hotline network for communicating in a nuclear crisis

― Launch public health security initiatives in the Northeast Asian region to respond to pandemics

― Engage younger generations in the nuclear disarmament movement and mobilize a broader base of potential stakeholders in nuclear issues

― Enlarge existing city networks such as Mayors for Peace and establish new city/regional cooperation networks to play a more direct role in reducing nuclear risk and pushing for nuclear disarmament

There is another more radical view, albeit not one shared widely by national leaders, which holds that the pandemic is forcing the “re-spatialization” of human affairs in all sectors and at every level, from the individual to nation-states.

Rather than merely increasing the velocity of existing change and bringing underlying conflicts to the surface, the pandemic heralds an epochal, global, and systemic transformation that will lead to a new distribution of power capacities in geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geoecological dimensions.

In this permanent pandemic world, the effective governance of global problems in an era of permanent pandemics may rise bottom-up from “first responder” cities, provinces, corporations, and civil society organizations, driven by sheer necessity to create a global mosaic of networked responses and shared solutions.

This is a world that might adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the foundation of nuclear governance, not the old legal order that approves of the existence and even the use of nuclear weapons.

Cutting across this hopeful image is a darker portrayal of how humans may respond to multiple existential threats in an epoch defined by pandemics. In this 21st century feudalism, great powers are weakened relative to each other, and small and medium powers acquire symmetric and ultra-modern means of military power projection designed to maintain control and keep the other outside borders during protracted pandemics.

Thus, today’s Cold Peace struggling to manage COVID-19 may degenerate into a new Cold War with more states and even non-state actors armed with nuclear weapons.

Although humans can make nuclear weapons to destroy life on a massive scale, they can’t make even a simple life form, let alone a single ant or an ecosystem. Arguably, humanity’s best bet for survival is to reduce its global footprint, anticipate the impacts of global change, and adapt rapidly while nature restores itself.

That task begins with making all humans safe from pandemic infections because no human can be safe while other humans are infected. This is the equivalent of delivering one ton of TNT-equivalent of destructive power in the form of a vial of vaccine ― surely achievable even if revolutionary in principle. From this simple proposition flows a revolution in global governance in all affairs, without which humans will likely face a dire, dark, and bleak future.

As we enter 2021, therefore, states and people must ask themselves whether there are better ways to prepare for the uncertain futures created by the COVID-19 pandemic than to rely on primitive nuclear weapons, and which of these is most robust.

Terrorists launch large-scale ‘military’ drill outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launch large-scale ‘military’ drill

The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad terrorist organizations on Tuesday launched a large-scale drill involving 12 armed groups in the Gaza Strip, among them the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah, according to Israeli media reports.

The drill, codenamed “The Strong Base” (a Koranic reference), involved the firing of rocket barrages into the Mediterranean and a simulated naval commando raid on Israel.

This is the first time that the Gaza-based terrorist groups’ “military” wings have conducted a joint exercise of this kind, with each having its own role and field of operation. In the past, each such branch carried out its own exercises, Ynet noted.

The Hebrew website also pointed to the timing of the drill, which comes on the heels of recent Israel Defense Forces exercises along the Gaza border in the south of the country, and the Lebanon and Syria borders in the north. The joint exercise may also be an attempt by the terrorists in Gaza to deter Israel from launching a major Israeli military strike before the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tenure in less than three weeks.

The mass “military” exercise took place three days after Israeli Air Force jets hit several targets in Gaza, in retaliation for two rockets fired at Israel on Dec. 25. Both projectiles, aimed at Ashkelon, were intercepted by the Iron Dome air-defense system.

A few hours before the drill began, just after midnight Monday, the IDF reported that terrorists in Gaza had fired a rocket at Israel, but that the projectile did not make it across the border.

The post Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launch large-scale ‘military’ drill appeared first on

Gunmen assassinate Antichrist’s military leader in Iraq

Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr (R) [File photo]

Gunmen assassinate pro-Sadr military leader in Iraq

December 30, 2020 at 10:38 am

Unidentified gunmen have assassinated a senior official in Shia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades in Diwaniyah Governorate in southern Iraq.

Police Captain in Diwaniyah, Jamal Al-Din Al-Sudairy, said the gunmen shot Rami Al-Shabani killing him instantly, adding that authorities have opened an investigation into the attack.

There was no official comment made by the Peace Brigades or the Sadrist movement on the attack.

The Peace Brigades is an influential Shia faction operating under the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)’s command and follows the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

The incident came after Al-Sadr sparked controversy earlier this week calling on the United States and Iran to distance Iraq from their conflict.

Later on Monday, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh described Al-Sadr’s remarks as “suspicious and misleading”.

The stakes rise between US and Iran

Rising Tensions Between Iran And United States In Iraq – OpEd

Cyrus YaqubiDecember 30, 2020

Iran’s Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Major General Qassem Soleimani. Photo Credit: Fars News Agency

As the anniversary of the assassination of Qassim Soleimani approaches, tensions between Iran and the United States are rising.

On January 2 last year, Qassim Soleimani, the irreplaceable commander of IRGC’ Quds Force, was killed by a US Army drone strike near Baghdad airport. Although the Iranian regime retaliated by launching several missiles at the Ain al-Assad base a few days later, since the attack did not cause any casualties, the Iranian regime’s leaders are still talking about revenge. Last month when Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of the regime’s nuclear energy was killed in a very complicated operation on the outskirts of Tehran. These two incidents have greatly highlighted the regime’s weakness among its own forces.

On Sunday, December 20, Assaeb Ahl Al-Haq militias affiliated with the Iranian regime by firing 21 rockets at the US Embassy in Baghdad, have raised tensions between the United States and Iran once again. The attack, of course, provoked an immediate reaction from US officials, and Donald Trump accused Iran of being involved in the attack by showing pictures of three unexploded rockets, warning that in an event of an attack in Iraq that would kill even one American, he will hold Iran accountable and react accordingly.

On December 23, the US Central Command (CENTCOM), blamed Assaeb Al-Haq militia for the rocket attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. However, in a fearful response, the Iranian Foreign Ministry called Iran’s involvement in the attack on US forces in Iraq “baseless and fabricated” and said that “the Islamic Republic of Iran holds the US government responsible for the consequences of any unwise action in the current situation.”

Following the attack, the Iraqi government announced the arrest of six Assaeb forces on charges of involvement in this rocket attack.

Following the arrests, several armed Assaeb Al-Haq militants gathered in front of the Iraqi Intelligence Agency building in Baghdad on Friday night, they announced a deadline and warned the Iraqi Prime Minister to release members of the group who are in detention.

On Iraqi social media on the evening of December 25, they posted a video in which they emphasized and threatened “divine punishment” for Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi. They gave the Iraqi government 48 hours to release the members of the militant group, who are detained on charges of participating in the rocket attack.

This situation is very inconvenient for Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazemi. On the one hand, he informed Iraqi political figures that he was completely opposed to the release of those accused of the rocket attack and while condemning the threats of Assaeb militants, was waiting for the results of the investigation and the verdict of the judge.

On the other hand, if he confronts harshly the Assaeb forces, they will accuse him of the betrayal of the national independence of Iraq. Meanwhile, he believes the continuation of relations with the United States and Iran in the national interest of Iraq. He intends to pursue a policy to keep Iraq free of conflict and tension between the United States and Iran and that the territory of Iraq does not become a place for proxy warfare of the militant forces supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran with the United States.

The Assaeb Al-Haq militia, which is part of Hashd Al-Shaabi, is in turn part of the Iraqi security forces. The militants are led by Qais Khazali, a former US prisoner in Iraq. In the beginning, he was an ally of Muqtada al-Sadr. He broke up with him in 2004. After his release from prison, with the help of the Iranian regime, he formed Assaeb Al-Haq. This group is also linked to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and has been sanctioned by the United States.

Meanwhile, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadr faction, who in the past has shown that he is an opportunist but affiliated with the Iranian regime, issued a statement on Friday evening calling Iraq a victim of the Iran-US conflict and demanded both countries, especially Iran that he called it “Dear Neighbor”, to get away their tensions from Iraq, and to respect the authority and sovereignty of Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraqi militant groups backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran accuse Iraqi leaders of following the US line and betraying Iraq’s national independence.

They seem to think that with just three weeks to go before the end of Trump’s presidency, the United States will not act against them. We must wait and see how things will go during this period!

Iran has NO reason to attack the US Embassy

Iran Denies Role in US Embassy in Iraq Attack, Says Trump Acting Out of ‘Fear’

By Tom O’Connor On 12/28/20 at 7:42 PM EST

Iran has denied U.S. allegations that it played any role in recent attacks targeting Washington’s embassy in Baghdad, accusing President Donald Trump of instilling further instability in Iraq with increased military movements at a crucial time for all three nations.

While rocket strikes near U.S. facilities in the Iraqi capital have become a somewhat regular occurrence over the past year and a half of heightened tensions between U.S. troops and Iraqi militias supportive of Iran, the latest barrage last week drew an ominous warning from the president himself, who claimed there was “chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq,”

“Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible,” Trump tweeted Wednesday alongside a picture of three unexploded rockets allegedly found near the attack site. “Think it over.”

Reacting to the remarks and others like it by U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Tehran “completely rejects attacks on residential and diplomatic facilities.” He called the U.S. comments “suspicious and mischievous.”

Iran has faced intensive sanctions put in place after the Trump administration quit the multinational nuclear deal in 2018, and, more recently, military pressure by U.S. warships and bombers sent to the region over the past month.

Khatibzadeh then issued a warning of his own.

“Everyone knows what the Persian Gulf means to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, “and knows what a high risk it is to cross Iran’s red lines.”

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also delivered a message.

“The #USMilitary’s increased mobility in the region is a show of defiance & fear because of past evils that increase the entropy of insecurity & lead to harmful misunderstandings,” the senior Iranian official tweeted. “Security in the region can only be achieved through the removal of foreign anti-instability forces.”

An image shared by U.S. Central Command purports to show damage inflicted by a December 20 rocket attack on the U.S. embassy building in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad’s Green Zone. U.S. Central Command

Both Washington and Tehran are closely monitoring one another movement’s ahead of what is anticipated to be a tense anniversary of a string of events in late 2019 and early 2020 that represented a milestone in the already tormented ties between the two four-decade foes.

The killing of a U.S. contractor in December 2019 in an unclaimed rocket strike blamed on the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia led to retaliatory strikes that killed dozens of the group’s members. An angry crowd supportive of the paramilitary collective and other contingents of Iraq’s state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces laid siege to the U.S. embassy throughout New Year’s Day 2020 in an act U.S. officials also blamed on Iran.

Two days later, a U.S. strike at Baghdad International Airport killed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, along with Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several others.

The operation was met with an Iranian missile attack days later against U.S. positions at an Iraqi base, and Iraqi lawmakers voted to expel all foreign forces, including those of the U.S.

While the U.S. has transferred a number of Iraqi positions to local troops, and the Trump administration announced last month a drawdown to 3,000 U.S. personnel, no plans for a comprehensive withdrawal have been established.

U.S. Central Command issued its own statement Wednesday in response to the latest embassy attacks, which the command said “was almost certainly conducted by an Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Group.”

“These groups are Iranian-backed because Iran provides both material support and direction. They are rogue because they are actually acting on behalf of Iranian interests and direction in a direct betrayal of Iraqi sovereignty,” the statement, attributed to spokesperson Navy Captain Bill Urban, said. “It is important for the people of Iraq to understand that past attacks by the Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Groups have killed more Iraqi civilians and members of the Iraqi Security Forces than they have killed Americans.”

He warned Iran that the U.S. “will hold Iran accountable for the deaths of any Americans that result from the work of these Iranian-backed Rogue Militia Groups.”

The White House has also escalated its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran in the final weeks before Trump’s rival, President-elect Joe Biden, is sworn in on Jan. 20. Biden is expected to initiate negotiations to reenter the nuclear agreement with Iran alongside other major world powers, including Russia, and to lift a number of the unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic imposed by President Trump.

Iran has promised to reinstate some of its own enrichment-related commitments to the accord as soon as the U.S. lives up to its obligations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasized diplomacy as an Iranian asset in a discussion held Sunday with Tehran’s Center for Political and International Studies.

Should the U.S. pursue war, however, Zarif warned in an earlier tweet published Thursday that it would be met with an even stronger and deadlier response than that of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an operation launched on the pretext of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that were never proven to exist.

“Last time, the US ruined our region over WMD fabrications, wasting $7 TRILLION & causing 58,976 American casualties,” Zarif tweeted. “FAR WORSE this time. Trump will bear full responsibility for any adventurism on his way out.”

He also criticized Trump’s “useless” rocket photo and shared two images depicting former President George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” photo taken just weeks after the U.S. invaded Iraq 17 years ago, along with one of Trump hand-in-hand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel is also widely seen as playing a role in recent tensions involving Iran, having been blamed by Iranian officials for the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last month in an eastern suburb of Tehran.

Iraqi men stand beneath a billboard depicting late Iranian Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani (L) and leading Iraqi paramilitary figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on a street in the southern city of Basra, on December 28, days before the one-year anniversary of their killing in a U.S. strike in the Iraqi capital in January of this year. HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP/Getty Images

Israel media reported last Monday that, in a rare move, an Israeli submarine crossed Egypt’s Suez Canal that ties the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, which feeds off into the greater Indian Ocean, the current operation position for the USS Nimitz carrier strike group.

Also on Monday, the U.S. Navy shared images of Ohio-class submarine USS Georgia and accompanying cruisers crossing the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway in which roughly a third of the world’s maritime oil passes just off Iran’s shores.

The U.S. has used Persian Gulf waters to launch operations during previous conflicts in Iraq, where tensions today are testing the resolve among rival arms of the state.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi quickly denounced last week’s rocket attacks, which he blamed on “outlaws” against whom he vowed “decisive confrontation if necessary.”

Iraqi security forces were said to have arrested a number of suspects allegedly planning another attack, and among those apprehended by authorities was a member of Popular Mobilization Forces group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which—like Kataib Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard—are considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization.

The group’s supporters staged a motorcade protest in Baghdad on Friday demanding the militiaman’s release, but he is believed to remain in government custody.

The following day, senior Kataib Hezbollah official Abu Ali al-Askari issued a statement warning Kadhimi that “the possibility of an all-out war exists,” and that Iraq’s self-styled “resistance” factions would band together to defend the country against adversaries that neither Iranian intelligence, the CIA nor others would be able to protect.

On Sunday, Saudi news outlets Al Arabiya and Al Hadath reported that Iraq’s Higher Judiciary Council had issued an arrest warrant for Askari. An accompanying document appeared to back the claim.

The same judiciary council said Monday it had reached an “advanced stage” in the investigation into Muhandis’ death alongside Soleimani nearly one year ago. Relevant evidence mentioned in the announcement included clips of Trump claiming responsibility for the attack,and the court noted that “the coming days will witness the issuance of appropriate judicial decisions against the accused and those involved in the assassination incident.”

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven 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.

Babylon the Great Prepares for War Against Iran

US sends dozens of armoured vehicles to Iraq ahead of Soleimani death anniversary

Provision comes amid frequent rocket attacks targeting Green Zone which is home to US embassy and other foreign diplomatic missions

The United States announced on Wednesday that it sent Iraq’s army 30 armoured vehicles to secure Baghdad’s Green Zone, ahead of the anniversary of the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“The United States is committed to helping the Iraqi military maintain the security of Iraq and Baghdad,” the US embassy in Baghdad said in a Facebook post.

“This contribution is one part of a larger plan by the U.S. Military’s Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq to support the [Special Command Division] SCD in securing the heart of Baghdad.”

The US embassy said the vehicles would be sent to the Ain al-Asad air base, where they would be used and operated by Iraqi military personnel.

“We will continue working together to guarantee a stable and secure future for the Iraqi people,” the statement added.

In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination, several rockets have been fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US embassy lies, although they have not caused any casualties.

EXCLUSIVE: Asaib Ahl al-Haq defying Iran to attack US in Iraq

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US President Donald Trump, who has announced plans to cut the number of troops in Iraq to 2,500 from early next year, has said he would “hold Iran responsible” if any Americans were killed in rocket attacks.

Iran, for its part, has denied any role in the incidents, and has called the US accusation “repetitive, baseless and fabricated”.

In October, Iran issued orders to its armed allies in Iraq not to attack US targets, fearing the reactions of the outgoing Trump who seeks to obstruct Iranian efforts to negotiate with his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Middle East Eye reported earlier this month that Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the most influential Iraqi armed factions backed by Iran, was rebelling against Tehran’s orders and continuing to target US interests.

Tehran and Washington have faced heightened tensions since the election of Trump in 2016, with the two sides nearly reaching the brink of war in the immediate aftermath of the US killing of Soleimani.

In recent weeks, the US has been ramping up pressure on Iran through its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions, in an attempt to derail Biden’s efforts to return to the nuclear deal.

Iran has also blamed the US and Israel for the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and said it was an attempt to push the Islamic Republic into a war with Washington before Trump leaves office.

Preparing for the Iranian attack

Bracing for a possible Iranian-linked attack, U.S. officials warn ‘the threat streams are very real’

Dan Lamothe

The U.S. military is bracing for a possible attack on American personnel and interests in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said, days before the first anniversary of an American drone strike that killed an Iranian general in Baghdad.

The officials spoke as two B-52 bombers carried out a round-trip, 30-hour mission from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Middle East ending on Wednesday, in an effort to show American presence and military might in the region to deter Iran. The Air Force conducted similar missions twice before in the last 45 days.

“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command. “We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack.”

The latest bomber deployment, disclosed after the aircraft left the Middle East, was carried out as supporters of the Iranian regime continue to mourn Qasem Soleimani, the influential leader of Iran’s Quds Force, the elite special operations wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was killed Jan. 3 in a drone strike along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia that U.S. officials have said was responsible for numerous attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq.

President Trump approved the operation amid escalating violence in the region, eliminating a longtime nemesis, Soleimani, who had coordinated attacks against U.S. troops and interests for years, according to U.S. officials and reports. Iran, expressing outrage, responded five days later by launching a ballistic missile attack that injured more than 100 U.S. troops and damaged several facilities.

When no Americans were killed in that attack, senior U.S. and Iranian officials both seemed to temporarily take pause.

But tensions have escalated again in recent weeks, as Washington prepares for a presidential transition following President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

On Nov. 17, rockets were launched at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Another armed group in Iraq, Ashab al-Kahf, said it was responsible.

On Nov. 27, a senior official in Iran’s nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated near Tehran. U.S. officials denied any knowledge of the attack, and Iran blamed it on Israel. But given the close relationship between Israel and the United States, U.S. officials have assumed that Iran also might hold the United States responsible.

One senior U.S. defense official said leaders of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have met with Quds Force leaders and that a “fair amount of advanced conventional weaponry” has flowed over the border from Iran into Iraq. He declined to say how the United States observed those developments, citing the classified means by which he said the intelligence was collected.

“I would tell you that the threat streams are very real,” the senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He characterized the situation as the “most concerning that I have seen” since Soleimani’s killing, and said there is concern of a complex attack.

The United States has reduced the number of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and warned of consequences if any Americans are killed. Iraqi officials, meanwhile, have expressed concerns about a possible confrontation between the United States and Iran on Iraqi soil in the closing days of the Trump administration.

On Dec. 20, more than 20 rockets were launched at the diplomatic compound housing the embassy. At least one Iraqi civilian living nearby was killed, and vehicles and buildings on the American site were damaged, the senior U.S. official said.

The attack followed a frequent pattern in Iraq, with Iran denying involvement as U.S. officials assessed that the rockets were launched by militias coordinating with Iran. Trump responded by tweeting a warning.

“Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch,” Trump wrote. “Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq. Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded with a tweet of his own, writing that Trump had “recklessly” accused Iran of the rocket attack.

“Trump will bear full responsibility for any adventurism on his way out,” Zarif wrote.

The cycle of deployments to the Middle East in response to worries about Iran has prompted concerns about how the Defense Department uses its resources.

In an opinion piece, Kathryn Wheelbarger, a former defense official in the Trump administration, and Dustin Walker, a former Republican staff member for the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in the Wall Street Journal this month that U.S. commanders have long sounded a refrain for more forces in response to Iran.

“This is business as usual, and it must stop,” they wrote, citing recent deployments of B-52s and the extension of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the region. “Sending the most advanced and expensive U.S. conventional forces to the Middle East in response to every potential provocation isn’t an effective or sustainable way to deter Iran’s bad behavior. Continuing this approach wastes taxpayer dollars, drains military readiness, and deprives the U.S. of ready forces needed to compete with and deter China and Russia.”

Biden has called Trump’s policy toward Iran — including withdrawal from an international deal to limit the country’s nuclear program, the imposition of economic sanctions and his bellicose rhetoric — “a dangerous failure.” Biden said that there’s a “smart way to be tough on Iran” and that he will rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran adheres to its terms.

“If Iran chooses confrontation, I am prepared to defend our vital interests and our troops,” Biden said in an essay published by CNN in September. But, I am ready to walk the path of diplomacy if Iran takes steps to show it is ready too.”