Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)


By WILLIAM K. STEVENSPublished: 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.”

America Can’t Ignore the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

America Can’t Ignore the Next Indo-Pakistani Crisis

Two years ago this week, I touched down in New Delhi, groggy from my intercontinental flight from Washington, D.C. I looked forward to a quiet two-day layover en route to a South Asian crisis wargame that I was hosting in Sri Lanka. The next morning I awoke to the news that India had just conducted the first cross-border airstrike on Pakistan’s mainland in five decades, and found myself in the midst of a serious, real-life crisis.

Over the next 48 hours, India and Pakistan would exchange airstrikes resulting in the shooting down of two aircraft and the capture of a pilot against the backdrop of reported missile threats and readied nuclear forces. Privately, many American officials expressed alarm that events would spin out of control, and some later acknowledged that senior U.S. officials basically ignored the crisis. Escalation was controlled, mostly by luck.

While yesterday’s announcement of a ceasefire by India and Pakistan offers a welcome development after almost two years of dangerously escalating violence and fraught tensions, this does not warrant complacency. Those who work on South Asian security issues expect another crisis is inevitable — one that will test the Biden administration.

While Washington has made a strategic wager on India to reap dividends for U.S. competition with China, it still retains a significant interest in ensuring future South Asian crises do not spiral out of control and risk even a limited nuclear exchange. Such a course of events would jeopardize fundamental U.S. interests, including the non-use of nuclear weapons, the lives of U.S. citizens, and that very strategic bet on India itself. If the 2019 crisis has taught us anything, it is that being an impartial bystander is not an option.

U.S. official strategy documents identify India as a vital and critical node in Washington’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific to balance China’s rise. But the region within which it resides remains one of the most risk-prone. The nuclear-armed Indian-Pakistani rivalry has produced several crises testing the last five presidents, and since the end of the Cold War, this rivalry composes the most commonly recurring pair in the International Crisis Behavior database. Thirty years ago, the intelligence community judged this region the “most probable” location for a nuclear exchange, a judgment that was reinforced after the 2019 near miss.

Several studies over the past decade have assessed that South Asia is acutely prone to false optimism, miscalculation, and conflict escalation, even to the nuclear level. The close geography of both countries compresses time for decision-making in crises and incentivizes quick reactions. Conventional, precision-strike capabilities at standoff distances are at the ready and lure officials into thinking punitive or retaliatory strikes can be easy and clean. Both countries also appear to be embracing more aggressive nuclear doctrines. Another feature of the subcontinent is intensified nationalism. South Asian leaders may be more sensitive to public pressure for escalation even as Indian and Pakistani publics may be increasingly supportive of nuclear weapons use.

Much has changed since the last crisis in 2019. Washington and New Delhi have drawn even closer strategically as cooperative prospects with Beijing have diminished for both since the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sino-Indian border crisis. America is also on a trajectory to exit Afghanistan — even if there is a six-month extension of the timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal — allowing it to reassess and reset its relationship with Pakistan, because it would no longer need to rely on Islamabad for air and ground lines of communication to support deployed U.S. troops. Most importantly, the Biden administration has prioritized competition with China, which appears to pick up on the last administration’s efforts but with greater competence, coherence, and strategy.

Despite these shifts and calls for the United States to stop playing referee between India and Pakistan, U.S. policymakers understand that the rivalry in South Asia is an extraordinary one because of the nuclear dynamics at work. Though U.S. leaders have to calibrate carefully about how they signal these interests to avoid creating perverse incentives — e.g., “too nuclear to fail” — the United States continues to hold a major stake in how crises unfold in South Asia. Not only would the global precedent-setting of nuclear use or the humanitarian and environmental consequences be devastating generally, such use would directly threaten U.S. “critical interest[s],” including the safety of its citizens and partners.

The Balakot Crisis

The most recent crisis is instructive. On Feb. 14, 2019, a Kashmiri suicide bomber killed 40 Indian paramilitary troops, an attack for which the Pakistan-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed credit. The Indian military retaliated against Pakistan 12 days later with an airstrike on what it claimed was a terrorist training camp within undisputed Pakistani territory. The next day Pakistani jets dropped munitions on empty fields near an Indian brigade headquarters close to the Line of Control and an aerial skirmish ensued, resulting in the downing of an Indian MiG-21 and Pakistan’s capture of the Indian pilot. In the fog and friction of war, an Indian Mi-17 helicopter with six soldiers aboard was also accidently shot down by an Indian air defense unit. Tensions escalated as India reportedly threatened missile strikes and demanded the immediate return of the pilot, while Pakistan threatened retaliation “three times over.” Indian naval nuclear assets may have also been activated.

Since the end of the Cold War, Washington has served as the indispensable crisis manager on the subcontinent. But during the last crisis, it was luck, not U.S. crisis management, that saved the day. The Trump administration was mostly missing in action until events nearly spun out of control. Luckily, the downed Indian pilot survived and his capture seemed to pause the cycle of escalation. His prompt return and ambiguity over the exchange of damage that had unfolded allowed for a face-saving de-escalation by both sides.

Both India and Pakistan were able to declare victory during the last crisis, but that may tie leaders’ hands in the future. The next crisis is poised to involve airpower duels and deep strikes the way the rivals have employed artillery barrages, not just within but beyond the disputed territory of Kashmir. Both sides have internalized some dangerously optimistic lessons about the last crisis. The “new normal” is not risk averse. The assumption that escalation is “easy to control” has taken hold.

Meanwhile, incentives for conflict and escalation may be growing. Soon after the 2019 crisis, the Indian prime minister was politically rewarded in an electoral landslide, largely attributed to his national security choices. New Delhi also enjoyed the geopolitical rewards of international diplomatic support in international fora while political pressure ratcheted up on its adversary. Pakistan too feels deeply aggrieved because of what it perceives as India’s August 2019 unilateral annexation of disputed territory of Kashmir and the abrogation of its autonomy. Pakistan may also sense a window of opportunity as the United States is once again reliant on Islamabad to help deliver the Afghan peace process while India appears embattled and stretched with a much hotter second front since the summer 2020 border crisis with China.

Certainly the recent ceasefire is a welcome pause, but its durability remains uncertain and crises can still flare up. The rivals have renewed commitments to a ceasefire agreement many times only to lapse back to fighting. The last ceasefire declaration in May 2018 portended a tempering of border hostilities but was followed months later by the Balakot crisis.

U.S. Crisis Management Stakes

Will the Biden administration, like Trump’s “America First” approach, adopt a hands-off strategy in the next South Asian crisis? That would be a mistake, even if doing so risks some friction with India, which is jealous of its sovereignty and prefers to deal with Pakistan bilaterally. When the next flare-up in South Asia inevitably occurs, Joe Biden and his team will need to dust off the crisis management “playbook.” Someone with experience, expertise, and relationships in the region will need to be the designated point person to coordinate the flow of high-level visits and phone calls. U.S. interests and expectations need to be communicated well in advance. Travel advisories, evacuation plans, intelligence sharing options, and penalties need to be prepared to shape incentives for restraint and de-escalation. Not to do so invites uncontrolled escalation and jeopardizes U.S. interests in preventing a mushroom cloud.

Crisis management efforts are critical, not orthogonal, to U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific. Some have proposed the United States simply pick a side and criticized U.S. efforts to play a “neutral arbiter” role in a future crisis. Washington is no longer a neutral arbiter between India and Pakistan, as it has placed a big “strategic bet” on New Delhi. Nevertheless, the United States is still essential as a crisis manager when border and air clashes threaten to spiral out of control. Beijing might help, but Washington can’t count on nor bargain for it. A proactive U.S. crisis management approach is needed to prevent the use of nuclear weapons on the subcontinent.

Even a small nuclear exchange risks unfathomable loss of life in a densely populated region. After the immediate blast effects, firestorms, emissions, and radiation would persist, all with devastating environmental and humanitarian impacts. The breaking of the “nuclear taboo” would have profound consequences for U.S. national security interests and for other nuclear-armed rivals.

Over 750,000 American citizens live in India and Pakistan. Most are concentrated in urban centers that would be the most likely targets of nuclear strikes. The United States has numerous foreign policy priorities in Asia but foremost among them is protecting American citizens abroad. Even the recently declassified 2018 memo on the “Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific” that laid out the logic of great-power competition in the region identified the highest interest was defending “the homeland and American citizens abroad,” followed by nuclear risks in the region.

A forward diplomatic approach is also consistent with an Indo-Pacific strategy that counter-balances China. Beyond the staggering loss of life, a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would devastate the Indian economy and its military capacity. Any nuclear detonation would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe, damage drinking water and the food supply, and have a chilling effect on foreign investment and trade that would decommission India from great-power competition for at least a decade. An India significantly weakened by even a limited nuclear exchange would be in no position to help balance China or play the anchoring role in the Indo-Pacific that U.S. strategy has envisioned. Moreover, not rising to the occasion of crisis management would confirm concerns about the shrinking ambit of U.S. diplomacy and diminish confidence that the United States could promote peace and prosperity.


Undoubtedly there is a moral hazard problem where India and Pakistan run risks while counting on the United States or the international community to bail them out as they have in the past. This is a real concern that U.S. policymakers have to weigh carefully, but there are creative methods to both defuse a crisis while also disincentivizing parties from instigating or escalating one again in the future.

There are several pathways by which another crisis on the subcontinent could occur. However, if triggered once again by Pakistan-based terrorists, there are ways to hold the sponsoring parties accountable short of greenlighting conflict escalation. Washington has many tools at its disposal to help de-escalate the next crisis and deter future ones. These include diplomatic pressures and financial sanctions. The United States could wield the prospect of enhancement or withdrawal of intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism cooperation, or even direct and tailored military assistance.

The United States has much to lose by letting an escalatory nuclear spiral run its course in the heart of Asia and much to gain from arresting such a chain of events. Much is at stake here, beginning with the norm against the use of nuclear weapons in warfare, the well-being of U.S. citizens, and the future of Asian geopolitics. For that reason the Biden administration would do well to expunge hesitations and prepare its crisis management playbook.

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Sameer Lalwani is a senior fellow and South Asia director at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based policy research institute, and the editor of Investigating Crises: South Asia’s Lessons, Evolving Dynamics, and Trajectories.

Image: U.S. Army (Photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Hamas naval vessel posing as fishing boat destroyed outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas naval vessel posing as fishing boat said destroyed off Gaza coast

According to unsourced Channel 12 reporting, Israeli forces fired missile to sink ship in Monday incident; IDF had said it uncovered ‘potential threat’ to navy ships

By Judah Ari Gross and TOI staff

27 Feb 2021, 2:47 pm

A Hamas naval vessel posing as a fishermen’s boat off the Gaza coast this week was the source of a “potential threat” to Israeli ships in the area, according to an unsourced report by Channel 12 on Friday.

The network’s military correspondent reported that many of the details of the incident on Monday were banned from publication by the military censor, but the Hamas boat was destroyed and sunk by a missile fired by Israeli forces, according to the report which could not be verified.

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It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard, but Channel 12 reported that the boat was operated by members of Hamas’s naval commando unit.

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The Palestinian news site Shehab had reported that the boat was destroyed by two missiles off the coast of the Gazan city of Khan Younis.

Illustrative: A fisherman navigates rough seas along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City, April 11, 2018. (Adel Hana/AP)

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said it uncovered a “potential threat” to naval ships off the Gaza coast, without elaborating on the nature of the threat.

“Earlier today, our troops spotted suspicious naval activity in the maritime zone along the Gaza Strip which posed a potential threat to Israeli Navy vessels,” the military said.

“IDF troops detected the activity and thwarted it,” the military added.

After initially saying additional information would be released about the incident, the military refrained from commenting further.

“The IDF will continue to take action against dangerous threats on the maritime front,” the military added.

Hamas naval commandos, seen in a still image from a propaganda video released by the terror group during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014. (Screen capture)

The Israeli military has repeatedly warned that the Hamas terror group, the de facto ruler of Gaza, as well as other terrorist organizations in the Strip have been developing a number of different maritime-based weapons, including naval mines, explosives-laden kamikaze boats and autonomous submarines.

A senior Israeli military commander said earlier this week that, according to IDF estimates, Hamas has replenished its arsenal since a 2014 war with Israel and now has a vast collection of rockets, guided missiles and drones.

It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of some 30,000 men, including 400 naval commandos who have received sophisticated training and equipment to carry out seaborne operations, the commander added. He spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines.

Biden orders airstrikes against the Iranian Horn

Biden orders airstrikes in Syria, retaliating against Iran-backed militias

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday the bombing caused “casualties” but said it was too early to say how many fighters were killed or wounded.

Dan De Luce is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit. Mosheh Gains is a Pentagon producer for NBC News.Charlene GubashCharlene Gubash is an NBC News producer based in Cairo. Gubash, a native Minnesotan, has lived and worked in the Egyptian capital since 1985.Kristen Welker is chief White House correspondent for NBC News.Ali Arouzi, Amin Hossein Khodadadi and Adela Suliman contributed.

Feb. 25, 2021, 5:58 PM MST / Updated Feb. 26, 2021, 1:31 PM MST

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes on buildings in Syria that the Pentagon said were used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in neighboring Iraq.

The strikes killed at least 22 people, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, citing unconfirmed local reports.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby portrayed the bombing in eastern Syria as carefully calibrated, calling it “proportionate” and “defensive.”

Kirby told reporters Friday the bombing caused “casualties” but said it was too early to say precisely how many militia fighters might have been killed or wounded.

“We have preliminary indications of casualties on site, I’m not going to go any further than that,” Kirby said.

The operation was the first known use of military force by the Biden administration, which has for weeks emphasized plans to focus more on challenges posed by China.

The president’s decision appeared aimed at sending a signal to Iran and its proxies in the region that Washington would not tolerate attacks on its personnel in Iraq, even at a sensitive diplomatic moment.

Three rocket attacks in one week in Iraq, including a deadly strike that hit a U.S.-led coalition base in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil, presented a test for Biden only weeks after assuming the presidency. The rocket assaults coincided with a diplomatic initiative launched by the administration to try to revive a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers.

A worker cleans shattered glass outside a damaged shop following a rocket attack the previous night in Irbil on Feb. 16.Safin Hamed / AFP – Getty Images file

Kirby said two F-15 fighter jets dropped seven precision guided munitions on buildings used by the Iranian-backed militias, totally destroying nine structures and partially destroying two. The buildings were located in Abu Kamal, near the Iraqi border, a location known as a hub for the Iraqi Shiite militias supported by Iran, he said.

“This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity,” Kirby said.

The airstrikes were ordered in response to a series of rocket attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, “and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” the Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The buildings near the border were used by militias including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, according to the Pentagon.

Iranian officials did not immediately react to the strikes.

The Syrian government condemned the attack Friday, calling it “cowardly U.S. aggression” in a statement from the country’s foreign ministry that was published by state media.

The strikes violate international law and “will lead to consequences that will escalate the situation in the region,” the foreign ministry said, according to state news agency SANA.

Russia, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chief backers, said it was given just four or five minutes’ warning before the strikes.

“This kind of notification does nothing when the strike is literally already on its way,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The U.S. was operating in Syria “illegally,” he said, and called for better communication with the Biden administration.

The Pentagon defended the legality of the strikes, arguing Article II of the Constitution grants the president powers as commander in chief, and citing article 51 of the U.N. charter, providing countries the right to “self-defense” in response to an attack.

“I would tell you that the president acted well within his constitutional authorities under Article II as commander in chief of the United States to protect American service members involved in operations. Clearly, there’s a constitutional authority here,” Kirby told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on Friday.

The Biden administration did inform Russia in advance of the air raid, Kirby said, but indicated it could not do so too far in advance without jeopardizing “operational security.”

The strikes provoked criticism from some Democrats in Congress, who questioned the legal rationale and demanded to know why the White House did not consult with lawmakers more closely beforehand.

“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” said Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.

“Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”

The administration said officials did brief congressional leadership before the air strikes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the 22 people killed in the bombings were members of Iraqi militias. The monitoring group did not provide details about how it obtained that figure but Rami Abdulrahman, head of the rights organization, told NBC News it was based on speaking to sources inside Syria.

He added that the death toll was expected to rise, due to the number of people seriously wounded.

Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB news, meanwhile, said 17 “resistance fighters” were killed in the strikes, but also didn’t provide detail about the source of that figure other than citing “reports.”

A senior U.S. defense official told NBC News on Thursday evening that the target was a transit hub near the Iraqi-Syrian border used by the militia fighters, and it was too early to say what casualties might have been inflicted on the militants.

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“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Shortly after the strike, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters travelling with him that the administration had been “very deliberate about our approach.”

“We’re confident that target was being used by the same Shia militia that conducted the strikes,” Austin said, referring to the recent rocket attacks in Iraq on U.S. and coalition personnel.

The Pentagon had said previously that it was awaiting the results of an Iraqi investigation into the Irbil rocket attack.

“We allowed and encouraged the Iraqis to investigate and develop intelligence and that was very helpful to us in refining the target,” said Austin, who spoke en route to Washington after a visit to California and Colorado.

Biden had approved the operation on Thursday morning, he said.

A civilian contractor was killed in the Irbil rocket assault, and a U.S. service member and others were wounded. At least two 107mm rockets landed on the base, which also hosts Irbil’s civilian international airport.

NBC News had previously reported that Iranian-backed militias were most likely behind the Irbil rocket attack, and that the weapons and tactics resembled previous attacks by the Iranian-linked militias. However, it was unclear if Iran had encouraged or ordered the rocket attack.

An obscure group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam, or Custodians of the Blood, claimed responsibility for the Irbil attack. But former diplomats and regional analysts said the group was merely a front organization created by the main Shiite militias in Iraq.

Following the rocket attack on the Irbil base, Iraq’s Balad air base came under rocket fire days later, where a U.S. defense firm services the country’s fighter jets, and then two rockets landed near the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.

Iran has rejected any connection to the rocket attacks.

In a phone call Tuesday between Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the two leaders agreed that “that those responsible for such attacks must be held fully to account,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. diplomat who worked on Middle East policy under several presidents, said the administration had lowered the risk of causing friction with the Iraqi government by hitting targets in Syria.

“By striking facilities used by the militias just across the border in Syria, the risk of blowback against the Iraqi gov is reduced,” Ross tweeted.

Dan De Luce, Mosheh Gains and Kristen Welker reported from Washington; Ali Arouzi and Adela Suliman reported from London; Amin Hossein Khodadadi reported from Tehran; and Charlene Gubash reported from Cairo.

The Associated Press contributed.

Iran condemns Babylon the Great’s strikes

Iran condemns U.S. strikes in Syria, denies attacks in Iraq

(Reuters) – Iran on Saturday condemned U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria, and denied responsibility for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq that prompted Friday’s strikes.

Washington said its strikes on positions of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group along the Iraq border were in response to the rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq.

Western officials and some Iraqi officials have blamed those attacks on Iran-backed groups.

However, Tehran has denied any involvement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday condemned the U.S. strikes as “illegal and a violation of Syria’s sovereignty” in a meeting with his visiting Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, Iran’s state media reported.

“Zarif said some recent attacks and incidents in Iraq are suspect, and could be designed to disrupt Iran-Iraq relations and Iraq’s security and stability,” the media reports said.

“We emphasize the need for the Iraqi government to find the perpetrators of these incidents,” Zarif was quoted as saying.

Hussein gave assurances that “Baghdad will not allow incidents in this country to be used to disrupt the excellent relations between the two countries”, state media reported.

Progress has been made in talks on Iran’s frozen funds and Baghdad would facilitate Tehran’s access to its funds, Hussein added. Some $6 billion in Iranian funds have been blocked in Iraq because of U.S. sanctions.

Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, met Hussein earlier and said Friday’s U.S. air strikes encouraged terrorism in the region.

Hussein is in Iran “to discuss regional developments, including ways to balance relations and avoid tension and escalation” with Iranian officials, according to an Iraqi foreign ministry statement.

An Iraqi militia official close to Iran said the U.S. strikes killed one fighter and wounded four. U.S. officials said they were limited in scope to show President Joe Biden’s administration would act firmly while trying to avoid a big regional escalation.

Washington and Tehran are seeking maximum leverage in attempts to save Iran’s nuclear deal reached with world powers in 2015 but abandoned in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump, after which regional tensions soared.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Frances Kerry and Mark Potter)

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Too Late to Stop the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

The clock cannot be turned back to 2015

Hamid EnayatHamid Enayat is an Iranian analyst based in Europe. Human rights activist and opponent of his country’s regime, he writes on Iranian issues.

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

The U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that Iran must fulfill its obligations to the UN Security Council first before it considers rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action (JCPOA). On the other hand, Iran insists that the United States should be the first to do so because it is the primary violator of its UN Security Council obligations. Is it a matter of which side takes the first step?

Why is the United States delaying its return to the 2015 nuclear deal?

Under the Obama administration, the JCPOA meant to be an agreement to calm the region, prevent an arms race, and avoid a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf. President Obama wanted to freeze his differences with Iran and withdraw the U.S. troops in Iraq and the Middle East.

The JCPOA agreement was considered a set of beginning steps for improving peace in the region. The Iranian regime’s drone strikes on the Saudi Aramco refinery, attacks on tankers, numerous attacks on Saudi and UAE interests by the Houthis, the exposure of Iranians’ intensified missile and nuclear programs, and its military presence in Iraq and Syria in the years since it was put into effect, proved that the JCPOA has backfired. “We will continue to deal with Iran’s destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East with the European countries,” Biden said. 

Therefore, the proposal to add missile, regional, and security annexes to the JCPOA, submitted by the Arab states and the European Union, was welcomed by the new U.S. administration and faced a sharp response from Iran.

Challenges Biden is facing regarding Iran

Joe Biden is coming off a challenging presidential election period and a political battle with the Republicans. He seems to be looking to bring America to a state of calm and settling. He is reluctant to look weak against Iran, particularly with the last administration’s approach. Several of the most influential Republican senators, and even several Democrat representatives, consider engagement with Iran as their red line. 

In the current fragile position of Democrats in the Senate, Biden prefers to have the least possible challenge regarding any future agreement with Iran. Furthermore, giving concessions to Iran in the JCPOA requires some approvals from the U.S. Senate, which are not likely to pass. The story becomes more complicated when a bipartisan resolution co-signed by 113 members of the United States House of Representative, calling for a democratic, non-nuclear, and secular Iran, and condemning the regime’s state-sponsored terrorism, was announced on Thursday.

Dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences has become the Biden government’s main challenge and priority. The issue of Iran is not on Biden’s list of top priorities.

Iran sets a February 21 Deadline

The Iranian parliament passed a law called the “Strategic Action Act to Lift Sanctions.” The law requires the Rouhani government to ignore its nuclear commitments, increase the number of centrifuges, continue uranium enrichment, stop implementing the additional protocols, and disallow access to the IAEA inspectors if the United States did not lift all its sanctions against Iran. 

Khamenei also reiterated the same demands and said, “If the European countries want Iran to return to its obligations, the United States must lift all its sanctions against Iran altogether.’ The purpose of the parliament’s resolution and setting a deadline (February 21) is to pressure the United States and the UN Security Council’s signatories that if the sanctions are not lifted, the regime will continue to move towards achieving the atomic bomb. 

That was the purpose of announcing the production of a small amount of metallic uranium, which is primarily used to make the nuclear bomb. The regime deliberately informed the IAEA of the metallic uranium production to provoke a strong reaction from the three European countries. “By what logic does the Islamic Republic have a duty to stop its retaliatory actions?” Zarif wrote on Twitter in response to a statement from the European countries. “What have the three European countries done to fulfill their duties?” (Tasnim News Agency – 991124)

The new geopolitical arrangement

Iran’s economy has been severely weakened, its currency is falling freely, and its foreign exchange earnings have declined. The Rouhani government has acknowledged that 60 million Iranians are below the poverty line. The massive uprisings of 2018 and 2019 were rooted in the intolerable economic situation of the Iranian people.

The Iranian regime claims that it was only during the 2019 uprising that Trump attempted to oust Soleimani. Iran’s regional influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria has been challenged and considered illegitimate. Millions participated in demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon against Iran’s influence in their countries. Iran’s number 2 man, Ghasem Soleimani, was assassinated, thus affecting the regime’s infiltrator in the region. Russia has been pressuring Iran to reduce its influence in Syria. 

All the above factors and many similar ones have provided the European countries with an opportunity to no longer abide by the 2015 geopolitical balance and elevate their demands regarding their concerns with Iran. Thus, the Biden government will not be willing to pressure Iran unless the revival of the JCPOA will address all such matters. They also want to address the European countries’ concerns regarding Iran’s ballistic missile program, which threatens nations in the region, especially Israel. Thus, it will be part of the new possible agreement.

Challenges of the Supreme Leader

The Iranian regime relies on the absolute monarchy of the Supreme Leader. The existence of Iran’s regime is primarily based on the repression of the people in Iran and engaging in creating instability beyond its borders. If any of the above two factors weaken or removed, the regime will face an inevitable collapse. Iran’s nuclear expansion and its ballistic missile program are an integral part of Khamenei’s strategy and his regime. From his point of view, they are not up for a discussion of compromise. 

Khamenei knows that if Iran backs down at all, the United States will “make excuses for something every day. One day for human rights, one day for nuclear weapons, one day for missiles, and one day for regional issues” (Khamenei, February 20). This reality is what he calls “infinite degradation.” The regime’s inability to gain concessions from the U.S. will pave the way for another wave of social unrest, demonstrations and uprisings, and an eventual collapse of Iran’s authoritarian regime. This destiny Khamenei is not willing to acknowledge. For this simple reason, the Iranian regime is relentlessly pushing for the 2015 agreement to be revived. So it is not a question of taking the first step by the United States or Iran. Will the regime surrender to the outcome proposed by the European countries in a new possible 2021 agreement?

More Perish in Antichrist’s Protests

Rights monitor says 3 dead as protests rage in southern Iraq

Samya Kullab, Associated Press

12:47 pm CST, Friday, February 26, 2021

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition into a crowd of anti-government protesters on Friday in southern Iraq, killing three people, a human rights monitor said.

It was the deadliest in five days of protests that have left a total of five protesters dead, the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said.

Protesters also injured security forces in reaction to the use of live fire. Of the 271 injured in protests over the week, 147 were personnel of the Iraqi security forces.

Nasiriya, in the province of Dhi Qar, has seen regular protests since late 2019, even after Iraq’s mass anti-government movement waned. The movement brought tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, to the streets of Baghdad and across the south to decry government corruption, unemployment and poor services.

Ali Akram al-Bayati, spokesman for the commission, said protests in the city never really came to a halt.

“It never stopped, this is because the city has been neglected without the new government achieving any of the promises it made,” he said.

Even when tents were cleared in Baghdad’ Tahrir square, considered the epicenter of the protest movement, those in Haboubi square remained. Protesters were calling for political and economic reforms.

Tensions reached a boiling point in late November when clashes broke out between remaining anti-government protesters in Nasiriya’s Haboubi square and followers of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The incident left several protesters dead.

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

East Coast Earthquake Preparedness
Posted: 08/25/2011 8:43 am EDT
WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.
A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.
The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.
In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.
At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.
A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.
Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.
The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.
Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.
“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.
“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.
“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.
Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.
At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.
“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”
Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.
The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.
The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.
The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.
In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.
At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”
Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.
Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.
“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”
The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.
Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.
A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.
“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”
An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.
The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.
Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.
It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.
The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.
People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.
In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.
Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.
“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.
“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”
Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Continues to Stonewall Inspectors: Daniel 8:4

The IAEA’s Latest Iran NPT Safeguards Report: Tehran Continues to Stonewall Inspectors

by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker[1]February 25, 2021

This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA’s) periodic safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the most recent of which was issued on February 23, 2021. The IAEA report itself represents a thorough overview of the IAEA’s investigation in Iran since 2018 and Tehran’s continued stonewalling of IAEA requests for explanations and clarifications about undeclared nuclear material and activities. The IAEA calls on Iran to “clarify and resolve these issues

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The report’s major finding is that there has been “lack of progress in clarifying the safeguards issues” related to the agency’s investigation into undeclared nuclear material and activities at four locations in Iran.
  • The IAEA reports that it detected “anthropogenic uranium particles” at two undeclared sites in Iran. Iran has not provided credible technical explanations to the agency to account for the presence of the particles. In January 2020, the IAEA first requested access to the sites, one called the Tehran site, and the other called Marivan, but Iran refused. Under international pressure, Iran finally acquiesced and the IAEA visited and took samples in August and September 2020.
  • The IAEA reports that “after 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of nuclear material particles” that the agency detected in February 2019 at a warehouse location in Iran, commonly referred to as Turquz-Abad.
  • Iran has not explained to the IAEA where nuclear material in the form of a metal disc is now located, which allegedly relates to Iran’s early efforts to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator for nuclear weapons at the undeclared Lavisan-Shian site.
  • Iran’s decision to stop implementing the Additional Protocol (AP) to its comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) on February 23, 2021 does not free Iran from its legal requirements to answer the IAEA’s questions and provide access to requested sites. Any attempt by Iran to use its recent actions to reduce IAEA monitoring and refuse answering the IAEA’s questions or hinder verification activities at undeclared locations should be severely condemned as a violation of its comprehensive safeguards agreement, which Iran pledged to continue to implement “fully and without limitation.”
  • The IAEA correctly points out in its report that it seeks answers relating to the “correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations,” the traditional manner of dealing with the possibility of undeclared materials and activities under the CSA. As a NPT state party that implements a CSA, Iran is required to answer the IAEA’s questions about undeclared nuclear material and activities, with or without an AP in force. Thus, the IAEA is empowered to continue requesting access to undeclared locations if its concerns pertain to potentially undeclared nuclear material and activities, and if necessary, request special inspections, a CSA provision that enables IAEA access to non-declared sites in a country, including both military and civilian sites.
  • Iran notified the IAEA that it will no longer implement the CSA’s Modified Code 3.1, which requires Iran to provide the IAEA with notification as a decision is taken to construct a nuclear facility and related design information, rather than much closer to the facility’s date of operation with nuclear material. Iran has claimed this code is a voluntary JCPOA commitment, but the IAEA has reminded Iran that implementation of Modified Code 3.1 is a legal CSA obligation – not a voluntary measure – and “cannot be modified unilaterally.” In the past, Iran has unilaterally suspended its implementation of Modified Code 3.1, in violation of its safeguards agreement. The IAEA noted that this would be a violation of Iran’s CSA.
  • Iran’s continued refusal to cooperate with the agency on these matters, combined with its steady and provocative nuclear advances and rhetoric over the past months, call for more IAEA oversight, not less. Iran’s actions and refusal to explain undeclared nuclear material and activities underscore that the international community has diminishing confidence that its nuclear program is devoted strictly to peaceful uses.
  • At its meeting from March 1-5, 2021, the IAEA Board of Governors should pass a resolution demanding Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s outstanding questions and concerns with a firm deadline. If Iran continues to deny cooperation, the Board should vote to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Four Locations of Interest

In this report, the IAEA describes in detail its attempts to verify Iran’s safeguards declarations based on evidence it obtained that alleges Tehran’s undeclared use or storage of nuclear material at four locations. The IAEA refers to these as Locations 1, 2, 3, and 4. It obliquely identified them or provided information enabling their identification in past reporting.2Location 1 is an open-air warehouse in Tehran, informally known as the Turquz-Abad site, where Iran likely stored undeclared nuclear material and equipment.3 Location 2 involves questions about Iran’s alleged production of uranium deuteride for a neutron initiator at Lavisan-Shian, the headquarters of its early nuclear weapons program.4 Location 3 is the former location of a pilot uranium conversion facility, which Iran referred to as the “Tehran site” in its own documentation.5 Location 4 is a former high explosive test site used to test highly sensitive components of nuclear weapons, called Marivan.6 The IAEA reports that all four of these locations underwent significant sanitization or leveling. Some of the concealment activities happened recently, while others occurred several years ago.Information about Iran’s alleged activities at the sites came, in part, from an archive of nuclear weapons documentation that Israel seized from a Tehran warehouse in 2018.7 The archive contained significant new information about Iran’s nuclear weapons activities under its late 1990s to 2003 crash nuclear weapons program, codenamed the “Amad Plan.” The IAEA obtained a copy of this information and independently assessed it, finding it legitimate, particularly when combined with information it already had in its possession about Iran’s military nuclear activities. The agency is pursuing inspections at sites where Iran may have produced, used, or stored, undeclared nuclear material or conducted undeclared nuclear-related activities.

Location 1: Turquz-Abad warehouse

The IAEA included in this report its findings about undeclared uranium particles it detected at Turquz-Abad. It previously included such reporting in its separate report on Iran’s compliance with UN Security Council resolution 2231, the resolution associated with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The IAEA reports that it “continued to assess that the explanations provided by Iran for the uranium-rich particles found at location 1 to be not technically credible.”In September 2018, the IAEA obtained information from Israel that the open-air Turquz-Abad warehouse site contained cargo containers which housed undeclared nuclear material and equipment relating to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program.8 The IAEA observed activities consistent with “sanitization of the location.” Commercial satellite imagery acquired and assessed by the Institute indicated that over the summer of 2018, following Israel’s disclosure of the archive seizure, Iran removed the cargo containers and scraped the ground at the Turquz-Abad site, likely in an effort to defeat future IAEA environmental sampling.9Nonetheless, the IAEA requested access to the site and inspected it in February 2019. The results of sampling indicated “the presence of natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin, the composition of which indicated that they might have been produced through uranium conversion activities.” The IAEA also detected “isotopically altered particles of low enriched uranium, with a detectable presence of U-236, and of slightly depleted uranium.” The IAEA added in a footnote that “the compositions of these isotopically altered particles were similar to particles found in Iran in the past, originating from imported centrifuge components.” Pursuant to its investigation into the origins of the particles, the IAEA also took environmental samples at two related, declared locations in Iran.The IAEA assessed Iran’s subsequent explanation for the presence of the undeclared nuclear material to be “unsatisfactory” because it was “not technically credible.” The IAEA concluded, “After 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of nuclear material particles.” The IAEA iterated that it is “deeply concerned that undeclared nuclear material may have been present at this undeclared location and that such nuclear material remains unreported by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement.”Through exchanges of letters between Iran and the agency, the IAEA reported that “regarding the presence of particles of natural uranium of anthropogenic (man-made) origin and, in relation to the presence of isotopically altered particles, Iran said that ‘no reason or basis had been found for such an assertion.’” Thus, without any reason, Iran essentially denied the IAEA’s findings from environmental sampling. In a letter dated January 25, 2021, the IAEA asked Iran to provide “substantial additional clarifications” within two weeks. Despite the IAEA sending a reminder letter dated February 10, 2021, Iran has not replied to the agency.Location 2: Lavisan-ShianThe IAEA also has questions about “the possible presence in Iran between 2002 and 2003 of natural uranium in the form of a metal disc, with indications of it having undergone drilling and processing, which may not have been included in Iran’s declarations; the origin of this disc; and where such material is currently located.” Earlier IAEA reporting obliquely identified the site where Iran may have carried out this work as Lavisan-Shian, the headquarters of Iran’s early nuclear weapons program in the 1990s under the Physics Research Center (PHRC). The IAEA noted that the site “had undergone extensive sanitization and levelling in 2003 and 2004.” Commercial satellite imagery from that time period indicates that Tehran tore down the buildings, removed the earth, and built a recreational park in its place.10

Iran’s nuclear archive revealed how Iran carried out work on producing uranium deuteride for a neutron initiator. Amad Plan documents sketch out the procedures it used to make uranium deuteride, including drilling into a piece of uranium metal. Included in the documentation are photos of the drilling equipment, located inside a glove box.In relation to its questions concerning location 2, the Agency decided to conduct additional verification activities at a declared facility in Iran where uranium metal had been previously produced (1995-2000) [or early 2002?].11 The uranium metal produced at this facility was declared to the Agency in 2003 and has since been under Agency seal there. The purpose of the verification activities would be to verify whether the natural uranium in the form of a metal disc identified at location 2 is currently stored at this facility.The site the IAEA visited is called the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center in Tehran. The IAEA reported that these additional verification activities in September 2020 were “inconclusive,” and that it requires “an additional verification at the declared facility.” It concluded, “The current location of the natural uranium in the form of a metal disc remains to be clarified.”The IAEA appears, in part at least, to want to conduct another physical verification inventory (PIV) at JHL, a standard procedure under a CSA designed to ensure that the total inventory of material, in this case uranium metal, recorded by Iran is correct. The IAEA would do so by verifying the declared amount of uranium metal and associated uranium waste materials. The IAEA previously conducted a PIV at JHL in August 2011, where it “identified a possible discrepancy of several kilogrammes of natural uranium in the accountancy records”12 related to Iran’s undeclared, secret experiments to convert uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) into uranium metal prior to early 2002.13 However, in 2014, the IAEA reevaluated this information, asserting that “the amount of natural uranium involved was within the uncertainties associated with nuclear material accountancy and related measurement.”14 This 2014 conclusion is likely worth a further reevaluation in light of new information. A new PIV at the JHL and closer scrutiny of its past activities therefore seems warranted. However, a more fruitful approach may be obtaining a resolution from the Board of Governors insisting that Iran promptly produce a complete declaration. Locations 3 and 4: The Tehran Site and the Marivan Site Location 3 is identified in the Nuclear Archive as the Tehran site, a secret Amad Plan pilot uranium conversion site, located near the village of Mobarakiyeh, about 75 kilometers southeast of Tehran.15 According to the IAEA report, this location is of concern because it involves “the possible use or storage of nuclear material and/or conducting of nuclear-related activities, including research and development activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle. This location may have been used for the processing and conversion of uranium ore including fluorination in 2003. This location also underwent significant changes in 2004, including the demolition of most buildings.” Fluorination of uranium usually refers to the production of uranium hexafluoride.Location 4 is the secret Marivan site, near Abadeh. 16 According to the IAEA report, this site involved “the possible use and storage of nuclear material where outdoor, conventional explosive testing may have taken place in 2003, including in relation to testing of shielding in preparation for the use of neutron detectors.” The IAEA added, “From July 2019 onwards, the Agency observed activities consistent with efforts to sanitize part of the location.”The IAEA’s findings about sanitization and concealment activities at these two sites are supported by satellite imagery independently analyzed by the Institute.After the IAEA notified Iran of its need for access to these two sites, Iran refused to grant the request. In response to Iran’s intransigence, the Board of Governors passed a resolution on June 19, 2020, calling on Iran, to “fully cooperate with the Agency and satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency.”17After delaying for several more months, Iran finally allowed the IAEA to access these two sites and take environmental samples in August and September 2020.The analytical results of the environmental samples taken at locations 3 and 4 indicated the presence of anthropogenic uranium particles that required explanation by Iran. On 14 January 2021, the Agency conveyed to Iran in separate letters the results of the analysis and related Agency questions in connection with locations 3 and 4. Iran has yet to provide answers to the Agency’s related questions.During a visit to Tehran from February 20-21, 2021, IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi registered its concern with Iran about “the lack of progress in clarifying the safeguards issues outlined above” and called on it to “resolve these issues without further delay.”
[1] Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).2. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker, “Iran Defies the International Atomic Energy Agency: the IAEA’s Latest Iran Safeguards Report,” Institute for Science and International Security, June 10, 2020,

3. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Olli Heinonen, and Frank Pabian, “Presence of Undeclared Natural Uranium at the Turquz-Abad Nuclear Weaponization Storage Location,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 20, 2019, 4. “Neutron Source: Iran’s Uranium Deuteride Neutron Initiator,” Institute for Science and International Security, May 13, 2019, 5.David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian, “The Amad Plan Pilot Uranium Conversion Site, Which Iran Denies Ever Existed,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 9, 2020, 6. David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Frank Pabian, “Abadeh is Marivan: A Key, Former Secret Nuclear Weapons Development Test Site,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 18, 2020, 7.David E. Sanger and Ronen Bergman, “How Israel, in Dark of Night, Torched its Way to Iran’s Nuclear Secrets,” The New York Times, July 15, 2018, Israel reportedly provided the IAEA with separate information about the Turquz-Abad warehouse that came from intelligence monitoring. See: “Israel Accuses Iran of Having Secret Atomic Warehouse Near Tehran,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 28, 2018, John Irish and Arshad Mohammed, “Netanyahu, in U.N. Speech, Claims Secret Iranian Nuclear Site,” Reuters, September 27, 2018, 9.David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Olli Heinonen, and Frank Pabian, “Presence of Undeclared Natural Uranium at the Turquz-Abad Nuclear Weaponization Storage Location,” Institute for Science and International Security, November 20, 2019, 10. David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Stricker, “The Physics Research Center and Iran’s Parallel Military Nuclear Program,” Institute for Science and International Security, February 23, 2012

Babylon the Great strikes ‘Iranian-backed militant’ site

US strikes ‘Iranian-backed militant’ site in Syria: Pentagon

26/02/2021 – 02:22

A rocket attack on a military complex inside Arbil airport that hosts foreign troops deployed as part of a US-led coalition caused serious damage – KURDISTAN 24 CHANNEL/AFP/File

Washington (AFP)

The US military launched an airstrike on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militia Thursday, in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq, the Pentagon said.

“At President Biden’s direction, US military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” said spokesman John Kirby in a statement.

These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,” he said.

The US military did not say whether there were any casualties in Thursday’s attack.

Kirby said the target was a border control point used by Iranian-backed armed Iraqi groups including Kataeb Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyid al-Shuhada.

It followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by US and coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group.

One of those strikes, on a military complex in the Kurdish region’s capital Arbil on February 15, killed a civilian and a foreign contractor working with coalition forces, and injured several US contractors and a soldier.

The attacks in Iraq by groups believed operating under Iran’s direction had laid down a challenge to the new Biden administration just as it opened a door to resumed negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program.

The Biden administration says it wants to revive the 2015 accord designed to freeze Iran’s nuclear development.

But it also sees Tehran as a continuing security threat across the Middle East.

Kirby called Thursday’s strikes “proportionate” and said it “was conducted together with diplomatic measures,” including consultation with US partners in the anti-IS coalition.

But he also said that it was designed to de-escalate the situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.

The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel,” he said.

© 2021 AFP