The Main Cause of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Indian Point Energy CenterNuclear power plant in Buchanan, New YorkIndian Point Energy Center (IPEC) is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. It sits on the east bank of the Hudson River, about 36 miles (58 km) north of Midtown Manhattan. The plant generates over 2,000 megawatts (MWe) of electrical power. For reference, the record peak energy consumption of New York City and Westchester County (the ConEdison Service Territory) was set during a seven-day heat wave on July 19, 2013, at 13,322 megawatts.[3] Electrical energy consumption varies greatly with time of day and season.[4]Quick Facts: Country, Location …The plant is owned and operated by Entergy Nuclear Northeast, a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, and includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors—designated “Indian Point 2” and “Indian Point 3″—which Entergy bought from Consolidated Edison and the New York Power Authority respectively. The facility also contains the permanently shut-down Indian Point Unit 1 reactor. As of 2015, the number of permanent jobs at the Buchanan plant is approximately 1,000.The original 40-year operating licenses for units 2 and 3 expired in September 2013 and December 2015, respectively. Entergy had applied for license extensions and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was moving toward granting a twenty-year extension for each reactor. However, after pressure from local environmental groups and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, it was announced that the plant is scheduled to be shut down by 2021.[5] Local groups had cited increasingly frequent issues with the aging units, ongoing environmental releases, and the proximity of the plant to New York City.[6]ReactorsHistory and designThe reactors are built on land that originally housed the Indian Point Amusement Park, but was acquired by Consolidated Edison (ConEdison) on October 14, 1954.[7] Indian Point 1, built by ConEdison, was a 275-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox supplied [8] pressurized water reactor that was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and began operations on September 16, 1962.[9] The first core used a thorium-based fuel with stainless steel cladding, but this fuel did not live up to expectations for core life.[10] The plant was operated with uranium dioxide fuel for the remainder of its life. The reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974, because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976, but the reactor still stands.[11] The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 when Unit 2 is decommissioned.[12]The two additional reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, are four-loop Westinghouse pressurized water reactors both of similar design. Units 2 and 3 were completed in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Unit 2 has a generating capacity of 1,032 MW, and Unit 3 has a generating capacity of 1,051 MW. Both reactors use uranium dioxide fuel of no more than 4.8% U-235 enrichment. The reactors at Indian Point are protected by containment domes made of steel-reinforced concrete that is 40 inches thick, with a carbon steel liner.[13]Nuclear capacity in New York stateUnits 2 and 3 are two of six operating nuclear energy sources in New York State. New York is one of the five largest states in terms of nuclear capacity and generation, accounting for approximately 5% of the national totals. Indian Point provides 39% of the state’s nuclear capacity. Nuclear power produces 34.2% of the state’s electricity, higher than the U.S. average of 20.6%. In 2017, Indian Point generated approximately 10% of the state’s electricity needs, and 25% of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County.[14] Its contract with Consolidated Edison is for just 560 megawatts. The New York Power Authority, which built Unit 3, stopped buying electricity from Indian Point in 2012. NYPA supplies the subways, airports, and public schools and housing in NYC and Westchester County. Entergy sells the rest of Indian Point’s output into the NYISO administered electric wholesale markets and elsewhere in New England.[15][16][17][18] In 2013, New York had the fourth highest average electricity prices in the United States. Half of New York’s power demand is in the New York City region; about two-fifths of generation originates there.[19][20]RefuelingThe currently operating Units 2 and 3 are each refueled on a two-year cycle. At the end of each fuel cycle, one unit is brought offline for refueling and maintenance activities. On March 2, 2015, Indian Point 3 was taken offline for 23 days to perform its refueling operations. Entergy invested $50 million in the refueling and other related projects for Unit 3, of which $30 million went to employee salaries. The unit was brought back online on March 25, 2015.[21]EffectsEconomic impactA June 2015 report by a lobby group called Nuclear Energy Institute found that the operation of Indian Point generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in local counties, $1.6 billion statewide, and $2.5 billion across the United States. In 2014, Entergy paid $30 million in state and local property taxes. The total tax revenue (direct and secondary) was nearly $340 million to local, state, and federal governments.[15] According to the Village of Buchanan budget for 2016–2017, a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2.62 million was received in 2015-2016, and was projected to be $2.62 million in 2016–2017 – the majority of which can be assumed to come from the Indian Point Energy Center.[22]Over the last decade, the station has maintained a capacity factor of greater than 93 percent. This is consistently higher than the nuclear industry average and than other forms of generation. The reliability helps offset the severe price volatility of other energy sources (e.g., natural gas) and the indeterminacy of renewable electricity sources (e.g., solar, wind).[15]Indian Point directly employs about 1,000 full-time workers. This employment creates another 2,800 jobs in the five-county region, and 1,600 in other industries in New York, for a total of 5,400 in-state jobs. Additionally, another 5,300 indirect jobs are created out of state, creating a sum total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.[15]Environmental concernsEnvironmentalists have expressed concern about increased carbon emissions with the impending shutdown of Indian Point (generating electricity with nuclear energy creates no carbon emissions). A study undertaken by Environmental Progress found that closure of the plant would cause power emissions to jump 29% in New York, equivalent to the emissions from 1.4 million additional cars on New York roads.[23]Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about the operation of Indian Point, including radiation pollution and endangerment of wildlife, but whether Indian Point has ever posed a significant danger to wildlife or the public remains controversial. Though anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper notes “Radioactive leakage from the plant containing several radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, nickel-63 and tritium, a rarely-occurring isotope of hydrogen, has flowed into groundwater that eventually enters the Hudson River in the past[24], there is no evidence radiation from the plant has ever posed a significant hazard to local residents or wildlife. In the last year[when?], nine tritium leaks have occurred, however, even at their highest levels the leaks have never exceeded one-tenth of one percent of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits.In February 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a full investigation by state environment[25] and health officials and is partnering with organizations like Sierra Club, Riverkeepers, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, Scenic Hudson and Physicians for Social Responsibility in seeking the permanent closure of the plant.[citation needed] However, Cuomo’s motivation for closing the plant was called into question after it was revealed two top former aides, under federal prosecution for influence-peddling, had lobbied on behalf of natural gas company Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) to kill Indian Point. In his indictment, US attorney Preet Bharara wrote “the importance of the plant [CPV’s proposed Valley Energy Center, a plant powered by natural gas] to the State depended at least in part, on whether [Indian Point] was going to be shut down.”[26]In April 2016 climate scientist James Hansen took issue with calls to shut the plant down, including those from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “The last few weeks have seen an orchestrated campaign to mislead the people of New York about the essential safety and importance of Indian Point nuclear plant to address climate change,” wrote Hansen, adding “Sanders has offered no evidence that NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has failed to do its job, and he has no expertise in over-riding NRC’s judgement. For the sake of future generations who could be harmed by irreversible climate change, I urge New Yorkers to reject this fear mongering and uphold science against ideology.”[27]Indian Point removes water from the nearby Hudson River. Despite the use of fish screens, the cooling system kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually.[28] According to one NRC report from 2010, as few as 38% of alewives survive the screens.[29] On September 14, 2015, a state hearing began in regards to the deaths of fish in the river, and possibly implementing a shutdown period from May to August. An Indian Point spokesman stated that such a period would be unnecessary, as Indian Point “is fully protective of life in the Hudson River and $75 million has been spent over the last 30 years on scientific studies demonstrating that the plant has no harmful impact to adult fish.” The hearings lasted three weeks.[30] Concerns were also raised over the planned building of new cooling towers, which would cut down forest land that is suspected to be used as breeding ground by muskrat and mink. At the time of the report, no minks or muskrats were spotted there.[29]SafetyIndian Point Energy Center has been given an incredible amount of scrutiny from the media and politicians and is regulated more heavily than various other power plants in the state of New York (i.e., by the NRC in addition to FERC, the NYSPSC, the NYISO, the NYSDEC, and the EPA). On a forced outage basis – incidents related to electrical equipment failure that force a plant stoppage – it provides a much more reliable operating history than most other power plants in New York.[31][32] Beginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening an investigation with the state public utility commission, the department of health, and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective: most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In 1997, Indian Point Unit 3 was removed from the NRC’s list of plants that receive increased attention from the regulator. An engineer for the NRC noted that the plant had been experiencing increasingly fewer problems during inspections.[40] On March 10, 2009 the Indian Point Power Plant was awarded the fifth consecutive top safety rating for annual operations by the Federal regulators. According to the Hudson Valley Journal News, the plant had shown substantial improvement in its safety culture in the previous two years.[41] A 2003 report commissioned by then-Governor George Pataki concluded that the “current radiological response system and capabilities are not adequate to…protect the people from an unacceptable dose of radiation in the event of a release from Indian Point”.[42] More recently, in December 2012 Entergy commissioned a 400-page report on the estimates of evacuation times. This report, performed by emergency planning company KLD Engineering, concluded that the existing traffic management plans provided by Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties are adequate and require no changes.[43] According to one list that ranks U.S. nuclear power plants by their likelihood of having a major natural disaster related incident, Indian Point is the most likely to be hit by a natural disaster, mainly an earthquake.[44][45][46][47] Despite this, the owners of the plant still say that safety is a selling point for the nuclear power plant.[48]Incidents▪ In 1973, five months after Indian Point 2 opened, the plant was shut down when engineers discovered buckling in the steel liner of the concrete dome in which the nuclear reactor is housed.[49]▪ On October 17, 1980,[50] 100,000 gallons of Hudson River water leaked into the Indian Point 2 containment building from the fan cooling unit, undetected by a safety device designed to detect hot water. The flooding, covering the first nine feet of the reactor vessel, was discovered when technicians entered the building. Two pumps that should have removed the water were found to be inoperative. NRC proposed a $2,100,000 fine for the incident.▪ In February 2000, Unit 2 experienced a Steam Generator Tube Rupture (SGTR), which allowed primary water to leak into the secondary system through one of the steam generators.[51] All four steam generators were subsequently replaced.[citation needed]▪ In 2005, Entergy workers while digging discovered a small leak in a spent fuel pool. Water containing tritium and strontium-90 was leaking through a crack in the pool building and then finding its way into the nearby Hudson River. Workers were able to keep the spent fuel rods safely covered despite the leak.[52] On March 22, 2006 The New York Times also reported finding radioactive nickel-63 and strontium in groundwater on site.[53]▪ In 2007, a transformer at Unit 3 caught fire, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised its level of inspections, because the plant had experienced many unplanned shutdowns. According to The New York Times, Indian Point “has a history of transformer problems”.[54]▪ On April 23, 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined the owner of the Indian Point nuclear plant $130,000 for failing to meet a deadline for a new emergency siren plan. The 150 sirens at the plant are meant to alert residents within 10 miles to a plant emergency.[55]▪ On January 7, 2010, NRC inspectors reported that an estimated 600,000 gallons of mildly radioactive steam was intentionally vented to the atmosphere after an automatic shutdown of Unit 2. After the vent, one of the vent valves unintentionally remained slightly open for two days. The levels of tritium in the steam were within the allowable safety limits defined in NRC standards.[56]▪ On November 7, 2010, an explosion occurred in a main transformer for Indian Point 2, spilling oil into the Hudson River.[57] Entergy later agreed to pay a $1.2 million penalty for the transformer explosion.[54]▪ July 2013, a former supervisor, who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plant for twenty-nine years, was arrested for falsifying the amount of particulate in the diesel fuel for the plant’s backup generators.[58]▪ On May 9, 2015, a transformer failed at Indian Point 3, causing the automated shutdown of reactor 3. A fire that resulted from the failure was extinguished, and the reactor was placed in a safe and stable condition.[59] The failed transformer contained about 24,000 gallons of dielectric fluid, which is used as an insulator and coolant when the transformer is energized. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that about 3,000 gallons of dielectric fluid entered the river following the failure.[60]▪ In June 2015, a mylar balloon floated into a switchyard, causing an electrical problem resulting in the shutdown of Reactor 3.[61]▪ In July 2015, Reactor 3 was shut down after a water pump failure.[citation needed]▪ On December 5, 2015, Indian Point 2 was shut down after several control rods lost power.[62]▪ On February 6, 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo informed the public that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility.[25]Spent fuelIndian Point stores used fuel rods in two spent fuel pools at the facility.[52] The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are not stored under a containment dome like the reactor, but rather they are contained within an indoor 40-foot-deep pool and submerged under 27 feet of water. Water is a natural and effective barrier to radiation. The spent fuel pools at Indian Point are set in bedrock and are constructed of concrete walls that are four to six feet wide, with a quarter-inch thick stainless steel inner liner. The pools each have multiple redundant backup cooling systems.[52][63]Indian Point began dry cask storage of spent fuel rods in 2008, which is a safe and environmentally sound option according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[64] Some rods have already been moved to casks from the spent fuel pools. The pools will be kept nearly full of spent fuel, leaving enough space to allow emptying the reactor completely.[65] Dry cask storage systems are designed to resist floods, tornadoes, projectiles, temperature extremes, and other unusual scenarios. The NRC requires the spent fuel to be cooled and stored in the spent fuel pool for at least five years before being transferred to dry casks.[66]Earthquake riskIn 2008, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory located a previously unknown active seismic zone running from Stamford, Connecticut, to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York—the intersection of the Stamford-Peekskill line with the well-known Ramapo Fault—which passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.[67] The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast, but scientists dispute how active this roughly 200-million-year-old fault really is. Many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. Visible at ground level, the fault line likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.[68]In July 2013, Entergy engineers reassessed the risk of seismic damage to Unit 3 and submitted their findings in a report to the NRC. It was found that risk leading to reactor core damage is 1 in 106,000 reactor years using U.S. Geological Survey data; and 1 in 141,000 reactor years using Electric Power Research Institute data. Unit 3’s previous owner, the New York Power Authority, had conducted a more limited analysis in the 1990s than Unit 2’s previous owner, Con Edison, leading to the impression that Unit 3 had fewer seismic protections than Unit 2. Neither submission of data from the previous owners was incorrect.[69]According to a company spokesman, Indian Point was built to withstand an earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale.[70] Entergy executives have also noted “that Indian Point had been designed to withstand an earthquake much stronger than any on record in the region, though not one as powerful as the quake that rocked Japan.”[71]The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Indian Point was Reactor 2: 1 in 30,303; Reactor 3: 1 in 10,000, according to an NRC study published in August 2010. reported based on the NRC data that “Indian Point nuclear reactor No. 3 has the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country, according to new NRC risk estimates provided to” According to the report, the reason is that plants in known earthquake zones like California were designed to be more quake-resistant than those in less affected areas like New York.[72][73] The NRC did not dispute the numbers but responded in a release that “The NRC results to date should not be interpreted as definitive estimates of seismic risk,” because the NRC does not rank plants by seismic risk.[74]IPEC Units 2 and 3 both operated at 100% full power before, during, and after the Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011. A thorough inspection of both units by plant personnel immediately following this event verified no significant damage occurred at either unit.Emergency planningThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[75]According to an analysis of U.S. Census data for MSNBC, the 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Indian Point was 272,539, an increase of 17.6 percent during the previous ten years. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 17,220,895, an increase of 5.1 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include New York (41 miles to city center); Bridgeport, Conn. (40 miles); Newark, N.J. (39 miles); and Stamford, Conn. (24 miles).[76]In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan, the State Department recommended that any Americans in Japan stay beyond fifty miles from the area.[citation needed] Columnist Peter Applebome, writing in The New York Times, noted that such an area around Indian Point would include “almost all of New York City except for Staten Island; almost all of Nassau County and much of Suffolk County; all of Bergen County, N.J.; all of Fairfield, Conn.” He quotes Purdue University professor Daniel Aldrich as saying “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather “fantasy documents””.[42]The current 10-mile plume-exposure pathway Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is one of two EPZs intended to facilitate a strategy for protective action during an emergency and comply with NRC regulations. “The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.”[77]In an interview, Entergy executives said they doubt that the evacuation zone would be expanded to reach as far as New York City.[71]Indian Point is protected by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including a National Guard base within a mile of the facility, as well as by private off-site security forces.[78]During the September 11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 flew near the Indian Point Energy Center en route to the World Trade Center. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers/plotters, had considered nuclear facilities for targeting in a terrorist attack.[79] Entergy says it is prepared for a terrorist attack, and asserts that a large airliner crash into the containment building would not cause reactor damage.[80] Following 9/11 the NRC required operators of nuclear facilities in the U.S. to examine the effects of terrorist events and provide planned responses.[81] In September 2006, the Indian Point Security Department successfully completed mock assault exercises required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] However, according to environmental group Riverkeeper, these NRC exercises are inadequate because they do not envision a sufficiently large group of attackers.[citation needed]According to The New York Times, fuel stored in dry casks is less vulnerable to terrorist attack than fuel in the storage pools.[65]RecertificationUnits 2 and 3 were both originally licensed by the NRC for 40 years of operation. The NRC limits commercial power reactor licenses to an initial 40 years, but also permits such licenses to be renewed. This original 40-year term for reactor licenses was based on economic and antitrust considerations, not on limitations of nuclear technology. Due to this selected period, however, some structures and components may have been engineered on the basis of an expected 40-year service life.[82] The original federal license for Unit Two expired on September 28, 2013,[83][84] and the license for Unit Three was due to expire in December 2015.[85] On April 30, 2007, Entergy submitted an application for a 20-year renewal of the licenses for both units. On May 2, 2007, the NRC announced that this application is available for public review.[86] Because the owner submitted license renewal applications at least five years prior to the original expiration date, the units are allowed to continue operation past this date while the NRC considers the renewal application.On September 23, 2007, the antinuclear group Friends United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) filed legal papers with the NRC opposing the relicensing of the Indian Point 2 reactor. The group contended that the NRC improperly held Indian Point to less stringent design requirements. The NRC responded that the newer requirements were put in place after the plant was complete.[87]On December 1, 2007, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called a press conference with the participation of environmental advocacy groups Clearwater and Riverkeeper to announce their united opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plants. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General requested a hearing as part of the process put forth by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[citation needed] In September 2007 The New York Times reported on the rigorous legal opposition Entergy faces in its request for a 20-year licensing extension for Indian Point Nuclear Reactor 2.[87]A water quality certificate is a prerequisite for a twenty-year renewal by the NRC.[citation needed] On April 3, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ruled that Indian Point violates the federal Clean Water Act,[88] because “the power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species.”[citation needed] The state is demanding that Entergy constructs new closed-cycle cooling towers at a cost of over $1 billion, a decision that will effectively close the plant for nearly a year. Regulators denied Entergy’s request to install fish screens that they said would improve fish mortality more than new cooling towers. Anti-nuclear groups and environmentalists have in the past tried to close the plant,[citation needed] which is in a more densely populated area than any of the 66 other nuclear plant sites in the US.[citation needed] Opposition to the plant[from whom?] increased after the September 2001 terror attacks,[citation needed] when one of the hijacked jets flew close to the plant on its way to the World Trade Center.[citation needed] Public worries also increased after the 2011 Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and after a report highlighting the Indian Point plant’s proximity to the Ramapo Fault.[citation needed]Advocates of recertifying Indian Point include former New York City mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Bloomberg says that “Indian Point is critical to the city’s economic viability”.[89] The New York Independent System Operator maintains that in the absence of Indian Point, grid voltages would degrade, which would limit the ability to transfer power from upstate New York resources through the Hudson Valley to New York City.[90]As the current governor, Andrew Cuomo continues to call for closure of Indian Point.[91] In late June 2011, a Cuomo advisor in a meeting with Entergy executives informed them for the first time directly of the Governor’s intention to close the plant, while the legislature approved a bill to streamline the process of siting replacement plants.[92]Nuclear energy industry figures and analysts responded to Cuomo’s initiative by questioning whether replacement electrical plants could be certified and built rapidly enough to replace Indian Point, given New York state’s “cumbersome regulation process”, and also noted that replacement power from out of state sources will be hard to obtain because New York has weak ties to generation capacity in other states.[citation needed] They said that possible consequences of closure will be a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for downstate users and even “rotating black-outs”.[93]Several members of the House of Representatives representing districts near the plant have also opposed recertification, including Democrats Nita Lowey, Maurice Hinchey, and Eliot Engel and then Republican member Sue Kelly.[94]In November 2016 the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the application to renew the NRC operating licences must be reviewed against the state’s coastal management program, which The New York State Department of State had already decided was inconsistent with coastal management requirements. Entergy has filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of Department of State’s decision.[95]ClosureBeginning at the end of 2015, Governor Cuomo began to ramp up political action against the Indian Point facility, opening investigations with the state public utility commission, the department of health and the department of environmental conservation.[33][34][35][30][36][37] To put the public service commission investigation in perspective, most electric outage investigations conducted by the commission are in response to outages with a known number of affected retail electric customers.[38] By November 17, 2017, the NYISO accepted Indian Point’s retirement notice.[39]In January 2017, the governor’s office announced closure by 2020-21.[96] The closure, along with pollution control, challenges New York’s ability to be supplied.[citation needed] Among the solution proposals are storage, renewables (solar and wind), a new transmission cables from Canada [97][98] and a 650MW natural gas plant located in Wawayanda, New York.[99] There was also a 1,000 MW merchant HVDC transmission line proposed in 2013 to the public service commission that would have interconnected at Athens, New York and Buchanan, New York, however this project was indefinitely stalled when its proposed southern converter station site was bought by the Town of Cortlandt in a land auction administered by Con Edison.[100][101][102] As of October 1, 2018, the 650 MW plant built in Wawayanda, New York, by CPV Valley, is operating commercially.[103] The CPV Valley plant has been associated with Governor Cuomo’s close aid, Joe Percoco, and the associated corruption trial.[104] Another plant being built, Cricket Valley Energy Center, rated at 1,100 MW, is on schedule to provide energy by 2020 in Dover, New York.[105] An Indian Point contingency plan, initiated in 2012 by the NYSPSC under the administration of Cuomo, solicited energy solutions from which a Transmission Owner Transmission Solutions (TOTS) plan was selected. The TOTS projects provide 450 MW[106] of additional transfer capability across a NYISO defined electric transmission corridor in the form of three projects: series compensation at a station in Marcy, New York, reconductoring a transmission line, adding an additional transmission line, and “unbottling” Staten Island capacity. These projects, with the exception of part of the Staten Island “unbottling” were in service by mid-2016. The cost of the TOTS projects are distributed among various utilities in their rate cases before the public service commission and the cost allocation amongst themselves was approved by FERC. NYPA and LIPA are also receiving a portion. The cost of the TOTS projects has been estimated in the range of $27 million to $228 million.[107][108][109][110][111] An energy highway initiative was also prompted by this order (generally speaking, additional lines on the Edic-Pleasant Valley and the Oakdale-Fraser transmission corridors) which is still going through the regulatory process in both the NYISO and NYSPSC.

Under the current plan, one reactor is scheduled to be shut down in April 2020 and the second by April 2021.[112] A report by the New York Building Congress, a construction industry association, has said that NYC will need additional natural gas pipelines to accommodate the city’s increasing demand for energy. Environmentalists have argued that the power provided by Indian point can be replaced by renewable energy, combined with conservation measures and improvements to the efficiency of the electrical grid.[113] 

The Iranian Nuclear Horn Defies the IAEA

Iran refuses to give nuclear site images to IAEA

Updated 27 June 2021 


June 27, 2021 07:46

DUBAI: The speaker of Iran’s parliament said on Sunday Tehran will never hand over images from inside of some Iranian nuclear sites to the UN nuclear watchdog as a monitoring agreement with the agency had expired, Iranian state media reported.
“The agreement has expired … any of the information recorded will never be given to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the data and images will remain in the possession of Iran,” said Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
The announcement could further complicate talks between Iran and six major powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. Three years ago then US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran; Iran reacted by violating many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear program.
A spokesman for parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee warned that “Iran will also turn off the IAEA cameras if the United States fails to remove all sanctions,” the state-run Tehran Times newspaper’s website reported.
The IAEA and Tehran struck the three-month monitoring agreement in February to cushion the blow of Iran reducing its cooperation with the agency, and it allowed monitoring of some activities that would otherwise have been axed to continue.
Under that agreement, which on May 24 was extended by a month, data continues to be collected in a black-box-type arrangement, with the IAEA only able to access it at a later date.
On Friday, the IAEA demanded an immediate reply from Iran on whether it would extend the monitoring agreement, prompting an Iranian envoy to respond that Tehran was under no obligation to provide an answer.
Iran said on Wednesday the country’s Supreme National Security Council would decide whether to renew the monitoring agreement only after it expires.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that any failure by Tehran to extend the monitoring agreement would be a “serious concern” for broader negotiations.
Parties involved in the talks on reviving the deal, which began in April in Vienna, have said there are major issues still to be resolved before the nuclear deal can be reinstated.

China doubles her nuclear horn: Daniel 7

China constructs new 119 nuclear missile silos along with plans to double its nuclear arsenal: Objectives and implications

Researchers at the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Monterey, US analysed the commercial satellite images, which indicated that China is constructing 119 identical missile silos near Yumen city in Gansu province. And if the number of other silos is added, then China is going to have 145 silos. Alongside, China is trying to double its nuclear arsenal in the next five years. While currently China has about 300-350 nuclear weapons, it can have about 700 nuclear warheads in the next five years. The number of silos is too high even for 700 nuclear warheads.

Hence, this development needs to be examined in the background the Chinese declared nuclear doctrine and attempts to build ambiguity, disparity in nuclear weapons between China on the one hand and US on the other, growing tension in the US-China relations particularly over Taiwan, and the Chinese overall objective of redesigning the world order that places China at the top.

First, while China’s declared nuclear doctrine is ‘No First use’ (NFU), of late there are indications of changes in this doctrine. The Chinese strategists have been viewing NFU as an unnecessary self-imposed strategic constraint. The Chinese experts suggest that the “NFU” is not applicable in the areas belonging to China as it could use tactical nuclear weapons to re-capture its own areas. While this is mentioned in the context of Taiwan, it can have implications for all areas claimed by China in its periphery. China is adding ambiguity to sharpen its deterrence.

Second, China is also rapidly enhansing its nuclear capability. Adm. Charles Richard, who commands U.S. nuclear forces, said at a congressional hearing in April 2021 that a “breath taking expansion” was underway in China, including an expanding arsenal of ICBMs and new mobile missile launchers that can be easily hidden from satellites. Ambassador Robert Wood, the US envoy to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, stated recently that China is looking at developing advanced nuclear weapons systems that the US does not have. He pointed out that “exotic nukes” that China is looking at include “nuclear-powered underwater and nuclear-powered cruise missiles”. Possession of such weapons and systems could change the strategic environment in a dynamic manner.

Third, it has reorganised its nuclear force. The PLA Rocket Force has taken over the responsibilities of the Second Artillery of PLA to ‘strengthen the trustworthy and reliable nuclear deterrence and nuclear counter-attack capabilities, intensify the construction of medium and long-range precision strike power.’

Fourth, the US-China relations are deteriorating particularly on Taiwan. A top intelligence officer of US Admiral Mike Studeman warned that China was threatening on all fronts and not just Taiwan. On Taiwan, he assessed that a military invasion was only a matter of time and not a matter of ‘if’. He pointed out that the US officials are describing the current warpath with China the same way that Gen. Douglas McArthur described the lead up to World War II.

Clarifying the Chinese aim, Xi at the centenary speech averred that China was working to accelerate its modernisation programme to develop capabilities to seize Taiwan. Xi averred that China maintains an "unshakeable commitment" to unification with Taiwan. "No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

The above statements indicate that tension over Taiwan is on the increase. While Xi hopes to unify Taiwan by 2027, US now assesses that a war on Taiwan is a distinct possibility. History shows that China over-reacts whenever it perceives that its objectives are threatened. India’s DSDBO road that runs parallel to LAC and provides the Indian military access to the section of the Tibet-Xinjaing highway that passes through Aksai Chin, was seen as a threat to the Chinese position in the region and the Chinese PLA tried to occupy Indian territory last year to pre-empt any possibility of India creating obstacles in its CPEC project and in its expansion in its periphery.

Crucially, Xi has projected the “Chinese Dream” to make China a world power by 2049 and prior to this it has to get back all the areas in its periphery. Taiwan, which is considered as the Chinese province by the CCP, is on the priority of Xi to be annexed. Xi in his speech warned foreign countries that the Chinese “will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China" and that "Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of Steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people." Hence, it appears that China expects a conflict on Taiwan and desires to strengthen its deterrence by having assured second strike capability. The construction of silos could provide China with yet another means of concealing its most powerful weapons. In this respect, the statement of Lewis, Director of the East Asia Non-proliferation Program at the Center for Non-proliferation Studies, part of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, deserves attention: “We believe China is expanding its nuclear forces in part to maintain a deterrent that can survive a U.S. first strike in sufficient numbers to defeat U.S. missile defences.”

These silos could be for DF-41 ICBMs which have range between 9500 to 12000 kms depending upon the payload. These could potentially reach the US targets. While the actual number of missiles to be kept in these silos are not known, it clear that only smaller number of missiles would be kept there as DF-41 is road-mobile instead of silo-based. The Chinese silos are spaced across 700 square miles so that no two could be knocked out by one nuclear warhead. This move ensures survivability of nuclear weapons to undertake the retaliatory attack. China could be adopting the same approach that was adopted by US and China.

Fifth, the larger issue is whether the Chinese decision is driven by purely military consideration or by its political ambition to change the world order dominated and governed by the rules framed by China. The doubling of the number of nuclear weapons and significantly increasing its missiles suggest that all steps are aimed at establishing its hegemony in the world. Such ambitions are bound to affect all nations. The qualitative and structural changes in the nuclear forces and possibility of lowering of threshold for use of nuclear weapons have been more significant than the increase in number of nuclear warheads.

India in its neighbourhood cannot ignore such overall objective of China as it is asserting claims over the Indian territory. The possible change in the NFU have serious implications. In a hypothetical scenario, China can use tactical nuclear weapons in Arunachal Pradesh or in Eastern Ladakh. While India constantly reviews its nuclear deterrence, the possible Chinese over-reaction and the fact that they have tactical nuclear weapons should be kept in view. As India now faces a collaborative threat from the Sino-Pak axis and both of them have lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, ways to strengthen deterrence should be found out. In addition, the need to have an effective overall strategy comprising all leverages to contain China along with other powers is a necessity and not an option.

Russia’s Latest Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Russia Takes on the Tsirkon Hypersonic Missile

Following months of speculation, Russian authorities have revealed the first vessel to receive the vaunted Tsirkon missile upgrade.

A Russian defense industry insider source told TASS news that Admiral Golovko, the third frigate of the Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov class, “will become the first standard carrier of Tsirkons.” This report has not been officially confirmed or corroborated as of the time of writing, but TASS is a major state news outlet with a long track record for reliable defense industry information. It was known for months that the Project 22350 line was one of the lead contenders for an early Tsirkon fitting; over the course of 2020, the upcoming missile was test-launched at least four times from the lead Project 22350 ship Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov. The TASS report contradicts prior speculation that the Kirov-class battlecruisers Petr Velikiyand Admiral Nakhimov were first in line to receive the Tsirkon upgrade as part of a larger weapons modernization program. The Admiral Gorshkov class is a line of fifteen modernized guided-missile frigates, displacing over five thousand tons and reaching top speeds of around twenty-nine knots. The frigates boast Russia’s latest Paket-E/NK anti-submarine/anti-torpedo system, along with a vertical launching system (VLS) for P-800 Oniks, 3M-54 Kalibr, and Tsirkon missiles. Of the fifteen planned Project 22350 frigates, two are active and the third—Admiral Golovko—has been laid down and is scheduled to enter service within the next several years.  

The 3M22 Tsirkon (also known as “Zircon”) is a winged, anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile with a reported speed of up to Mach 9 or roughly eleven thousand kilometers per hour. The missile was one of six new weapons unveiled by Russian president Vladimir Putin during his 2018 state-of-the-nation address. In addition to a wide range of surface ships, Tsirkon will be compatible with the new nuclear-powered Yasen-M cruise missile submarines.

The missile boasts an operational range in excess of one thousand kilometers and up to two thousand kilometers depending on the launch platform and operating circumstances, enough to put the U.S. Navy’s carrier strike groups at risk and to impede the ability of carrier wings to operate effectively. Citing the missile’s sheer speed and ability to maneuver mid-flight, Russian military observers have argued that Tsirkon cannot be reliably intercepted by any tools currently available to NATO forces. Retired Russian Col. Mikhail Khodaernok posited in an op-ed published by RT that the Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyers’ current surface-to-air systems were designed to neutralize supersonic cruise missiles like those carried by older Russian warships, but cannot effectively counter hypersonic threats. “Given the very high cruise speed of this state-of-the-art Russian anti-ship missile (Mach 8 and over), a potential enemy’s surface-to-air or anti-missile systems will be rendered ineffective due to zero reaction time (the gap between the moment of threat detection and the launch of an intercepting missile),” he wrote. “In other words, you don’t have any time to react, because your ship gets hit right after the missile is detected.”

Russian officials have not publicly revealed a firm production timeline, but the Tsirkon hypersonic missile is widely expected to enter service in coming years.  

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

Image: Reuters

Palestinians Find New Unity Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

People line Gaza Beach on June 17. Since the 2007-imposed blockade, Gazans have almost no chance of leaving the small enclave.

Palestinians Find New Unity After War With Israel

The 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas has unified disparate Palestinian enclaves.

July 13, 2021, 1:13 PM

JERUSALEM—Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians remain high after a fourth war with Hamas ended in a shaky cease-fire in May, and home demolitions and evictions of Palestinians, supported by the Israeli government, continue in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. But Palestinians—and even Israelis—say that the Palestinian cause has been galvanized like never before, and disparate groups of Palestinians are discovering a new sense of unity in the rubble of the 11-day war.

Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have lived physically divided. In the Gaza Strip, a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 means that most of its people have never left the small enclave and have had vanishingly few contacts with fellow Palestinians in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. That isolation was further deepened by decades of illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“We have seen that all these colonial borders—whether cement blocks and walls or barriers in our minds that have caused divisions—are starting to come down. We are reclaiming our unified identity,” said Mohammed El-Kurd, a 23-year-old student who grew up in occupied East Jerusalem and studied in New York. “Millions of people around the world are, for the first time, waking up to the reality of apartheid and ethnic cleansing Palestinians are facing on a daily basis.”

A girl in a Gaza shopping mall on June 20 checks her Instagram account where she says she connects with Palestinians outside of Gaza.

The recent war, and especially the social media frenzy that accompanied it, has helped tear down those divisions. 

Over weeks of turmoil, hashtags such as #SaveSheikhJarrah and #GazaUnderAttack went viral. For El-Kurd, this meant that the number of his social media followers on Instagram went from 4,000 to 750,000 within weeks. He was quickly in the spotlight, with his own family having faced the threat of forced eviction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for years. But the situation escalated in May when Yaakov Fauci, a settler from New York, took over part of the El-Kurd family’s home, telling them that “if I don’t steal it, someone else will.”

Mohammed El-Kurd, photographed on July 4, is a 23-year-old creative writing student who grew up in occupied East Jerusalem.

Our voices have been policed by the public, but this is changing,” El-Kurd said. “We want the blockage to end, we want to roam freely, and we want Palestinians to return home, instead of rotting in refugee camps.”

The quick fight between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza began with heavy-handed Israeli tactics in Jerusalem met by a barrage of what was ultimately 4,000 Hamas rockets. The conflict left at least 256 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. While the war resulted in a quick military victory for Israel, it also offered a victory of sorts to Palestinians, putting issues like Sheikh Jarrah, which had simmered in the background for years, at the center of a new Palestinian sense of purpose.

A scene in the Old City in Jerusalem on June 15. The eastern part of the city is mostly home to Palestinians, though some have been evicted from their houses.

“Our nation has returned to its real cause,” said Amjad Shawa, director of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network in Gaza. “Since the developments in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the war in Gaza, we are once again united as a people. We have raised our voices, because the current situation is unacceptable.”

Basem Naim, head of the Council on International Relations within Hamas, said that the main catalyst for the fighting was Israel’s behavior at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the evictions in East Jerusalem. “It has touched two sensitive points: holy places and refugees. We continue to fight a political conflict about statehood, land, and borders. It’s not just about a few houses—but about a long-term plan to extinguish the Palestinian existence in Jerusalem,” Naim said. 

“I’d still say this conflict was different,” he added. “Palestinians have gained confidence, even though the devastation in Gaza is widespread. They felt like they were able to stand up to Israel for the first time.”

The newfound sense of Palestinian unity is also apparent among Israel’s leadership, said Mairav Zonszein, senior analyst on Israel and Palestine at the International Crisis Group.

“Conceptually, Hamas put the Palestinians back on the radar and Jerusalem at the center of their issues,” she said. “The [Israeli] government has realized that Palestinians are uniting; that the fragmentation isn’t as effective as they would like it to be; that they empathize with each other’s struggles, regardless of whether they are in the West Bank, Jerusalem or Gaza.”

Salma Shawa, 24, photographed on June 24, is advocating for Palestinians using social media.

Salma Shawa, a 24-year-old activist and entrepreneur, grew up in the closed-off enclave of Gaza, where she rarely had a chance to interact with people from Jerusalem or the West Bank due to strict movement restrictions on Palestinians. But in the wake of the recent conflict, she too has made new connections with other Palestinians and transcended borders that seemed impassable. 

“Over the past months, Palestine has moved onto the global stage—so much so, that it was even discussed in the U.S. Congress. This has reunited its people, including several generations of diaspora Palestinians who have never been to their own country,” she said. 

“There is no going back now. There is new hope.”

‘Bombardments were everywhere’ outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

‘Bombardments were everywhere’—MCC responds to bombing in Gaza’s

News and Press Release Source 

Posted 13 Jul 2021 Originally published 13 Jul 2021

By Emily Loewen

Nighttime was the hardest for Mahmoud Alhalimi. With the electricity cut and bombs falling, the hours were dark and loud, as he tried in vain to help his two young children fall asleep. 

“They asked me all the time, ‘What are these sounds?… Are they coming to our home?’” he says of their time during an Israeli bombardment on Gaza in May. “They were very scared, and I tried to play games with them in order to relieve their fear.”

The 11 days were dark. “Bombardments were everywhere, while no place was safe in Gaza; the shelling was everywhere from sky, sea and land,” says Alhalimi, project coordinator at Near East Council of Churches (NECC), which receives support from MCC. 

Mohamed Al-Attar also was sheltering in his home with his wife and three children, who panicked as the bombs fell. They couldn’t leave their home with explosions all around them. Then the unthinkable happened. Their home was hit, and Al-Attar lost his wife and children, Mohamed Izz Eddin, Islam and Ameera, in the blast. Then, while staying with his brothers and their families, that house too was hit by a bomb and they were buried under the rubble for hours. 

“We have become refugees in our own country,” Al-Attar says. “Me and many people like me have lost their families, children and parents during this conflict… and even the ones who survived are suffering over the things they have lost. They have no place to be.” 

Since the bombardment, Al-Attar has been able to continue in his teaching position, but he is now trying to support his brothers’ families as well. He is trying to stretch his income, but it isn’t enough.

The outbreak of violence followed weeks of growing protest and violence triggered by Israel’s plans to remove Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah (in East Jerusalem), as well as heavy policing of Palestinians during Ramadan, particularly at the al-Aqsa mosque.

The bombing destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and displaced up to 8,500 people. Access to essential services like clean water and health care have been difficult in Gaza for years. But the conflict combined with the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically worsened the situation.

Many residents in Gaza have very low income, so they struggle to buy enough to eat. Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel since 2007, with severe restrictions on what can come in and out. The economic situation in Gaza was already poor at the time of the siege and continued to deteriorate. Many people have no steady income to provide for their families. 

With your support, MCC is responding to the crisis, providing emergency food, hygiene items and psychosocial support. Four hundred fifteen families will receive either monthly food packages or vouchers through MCC’s local partners Al Najd Development Forum and Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA). Two hundred fifteen families also will receive hygiene supplies. And 400 children will receive mental health support to help them deal with the trauma of the experience. 

Another MCC partner, the Near East Council of Churches (NECC), runs a vocational training school. They will provide psychosocial counseling support for students and their families and one-time emergency cash distributions. With those funds, families can purchase food and hygiene items and cover other medical or household expenses. 

This bombardment is only the latest escalation in a long cycle of conflict that has lasted for more than a decade. “These wars on Gaza are repeated every three to five years and I am not sure I will survive [the] next war,” says Alhalimi. “We say: no more wars, we want to live in peace and to develop our country and enjoy our state in our homeland.” 

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ


Emily Loewen is the marketing and communication manager for MCC Canada.

Iranian commander urged escalation against US forces at Iraq: Daniel 8

A man wears a mask with images of late Iran's Quds Force top commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in a U.S. airstrike, in Kerbala, Iraq, October 7, 2020.  REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen/File Photo

Iranian commander urged escalation against US forces at Iraq meeting, sources say

July 13, 202110:38 AM MDTLast Updated 5 hours ago

BAGHDAD, July 13 (Reuters) – A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander urged Iraqi Shi’ite militias to step up attacks on U.S. targets during a meeting in Baghdad last week, three militia sources and two Iraqi security sources familiar with the gathering said.

American forces in Iraq and Syria were attacked several times following the visit by an Iranian delegation led by Revolutionary Guards intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, which came after deadly U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias at the Syrian-Iraqi border on June 27.

While encouraging retaliation, the Iranians advised the Iraqis not to go too far to avoid a big escalation, three militia sources briefed on the meeting said.

The Iranians did, however, advise them to widen their attacks by retaliating against U.S. forces in Syria, according to one of the three militia sources, a senior local militia commander briefed on the meeting.

The flare-up comes as significant differences cloud diplomatic efforts to revive the Iranian 2015 nuclear agreement, which was abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump but which Iran wants reinstated to allow it to resume key exports of oil.

A senior official in the region, who was briefed by Iranian authorities on Taeb’s visit, said that Taeb met several Iraqi militia leaders during the trip and conveyed “the supreme leader’s message to them about keeping up pressure on U.S. forces in Iraq until they leave the region”.

Since the U.S. air strikes, attacks on U.S. troops and personnel or bases where they operate have intensified in Iraq and widened to eastern Syria. read more 

Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters for this article, and officials at the Revolutionary Guards public relations office were not immediately available for comment.

Iran’s U.N. envoy this month denied U.S. accusations that Tehran supported attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, and condemned U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militants there. read more 

There was no immediate response from the Iraqi government or the prime minister’s office to questions about the meeting.

The sources to whom Reuters spoke did so on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.


The Arab world’s biggest Shi’ite majority country, Iraq has been a theatre of U.S.-Iranian rivalry since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Shi’ite militias have been waging a sustained and increasingly sophisticated campaign against U.S. forces which, after withdrawing in 2011, returned to Iraq in 2014 at the head of a coalition to fight the Islamic State group.

But the attacks, including explosives-laden drones, have gone up a gear since the U.S. air strikes, which Iran-aligned militias say killed four of their members.

The two Iraqi security sources close to the activities and operations of the groups said the Iranians handed their Iraqi allies aerial maps of U.S. positions in eastern Syria at the July 5 meeting.

The Pentagon said it was deeply concerned about the attacks, including a July 7 rocket barrage on the Ain al-Asad air base in which two American service members were wounded. read more 

A senior Guards figure, Taeb is a mid-ranking Shi’ite cleric seen by insiders and analysts of Iranian politics as close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The senior official in the region said Khamenei had sent Taeb to Iraq after visits there by Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, appointed last year as head of the Guards’ expeditionary branch, the Quds Force, had failed to yield an escalation.

An Iraqi government official said it appeared Iran was seeking to use its allies in Iraq to apply pressure for a return to the nuclear deal, under which harsh U.S. sanctions would be lifted in return for curbs on Iran’s atomic activities.

A senior Iranian diplomat said Taeb’s visit to Baghdad indicated that Khamenei was getting directly involved in Iraq affairs after the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, a previous Quds Force head, in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq early last year.

A spokesman for one of the Iranian-backed militia groups hit by the U.S. air strike last month confirmed that the recent attacks were carried out by the Iraqi Islamic Resistance, a reference to the Shi’ite Iran-backed groups.

“The military escalation against the American forces will continue until all their combatant forces leave Iraq,” Kadhim al-Fartousi, the spokesman for the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada faction, told Reuters.

Saad al-Saadi, a senior official in the political office of the Iranian-backed group of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, said if the Americans continued to strike at militias, then more effective attacks on U.S. forces could be expected anywhere in Iraq and Syria.

The meeting was held in Baghdad’s upscale Jadiriya neighbourhood in a villa just across the river Tigris from the U.S. embassy, two of the local militia commanders said.

Iran and the United States began indirect negotiations in Vienna in early April to restore the nuclear deal. No date has been set for further talks, which adjourned on June 20.

Some Western and Iranian officials have said the talks are a long way from a conclusion, as disagreements on which U.S. sanctions should be lifted and on the nuclear commitments that Iran has to make and when still remain in place.

(This story has been refiled to reinstate dropped word ‘to’ in para 11)

Reporting by Baghdad newsroom; Editing by William Maclean