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.”

Pentagon document warns of upcoming nuclear war: Revelation 16

Pentagon document warns the world is moving closer to a nuclear war

The US says there is an ‘increased potential’ for nuclear conflict with the country’s main enemies because they are stockpiling nuclear weapons.

Russia and China have been modernizing and expanding their respective arsenals over the last decade, according to a recently disclosed 2020 report from the Pentagon on nuclear operations.

And North Korea has accelerated testing of missiles capable of reaching America’s homeland, and Iran has the technology to create a nuclear weapon within a year of deciding to do so.   

It says the US has tried to negotiate reductions in nuclear weapons capabilities since since 2010, but ‘no potential adversary has reduced either the role of nuclear weapons in its national security strategy or the number of nuclear weapons it fields.’

‘Rather, they have moved decidedly in the opposite direction,’ according to the report, which was released on Tuesday and specifically mentions Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

‘As a result, there is an increased potential for regional conflicts involving nuclear-armed adversaries in several parts of the world and the potential for adversary nuclear escalation in crisis or conflict.’

The U.S. Air Force has released a new visualization of the secretive B-21 Raider stealth bomber Tuesday. This is only the third artist's graphic of the aircraft designed to perform long range conventional and nuclear missions
A Russian Yars carrying an intercontinental nuclear missile system drives during the Victory Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020
A Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 2019

Russia and China are the most serious threats to the United States because of the technology and arsenals they already possess. 

In 2019, Russia and the US withdrew from their 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which required the US and Soviet Union to eliminate all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The two counties extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for five years in 2021. 

The agreement – dubbed the New START – enhances U.S. national security by placing verifiable limits on all Russian deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. 

Russia, which considers the US and NATO ‘principal threats to its contemporary geopolitical ambitions,’ modernized its Soviet warhead delivery capabilities, is employing new nuclear warheads and launchers, and developing three new intercontinental-range nuclear weapon systems. 

The weapon systems include high-tech planes, ground-launched cruise missiles and underwater autonomous torpedoes.

China has increased its number and capabilities of nuclear weapons, including its ‘most advanced’ submarine-launched missiles. 

China is also developing a bomber, which would allow China to fire weapons by land, sea and air. 

North Korea has ‘accelerated’ its pursuit of nuclear weapons and dramatically increased its missile flight testing, most recently including the testing of intercontinental-range missiles capable of reaching the US homeland, according to the US report. 

‘North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities poses the most immediate and dire proliferation threat to international security and stability.’

Iran has the technology and capacity to develop a nuclear weapon within a year of when it decides to do so, the Pentagon report says. 

Iran’s ‘aggressive strategy and activities to destabilize neighboring governments, raises questions about its long-term commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons capability.’

Meanwhile, the 2020 report says the US’s nuclear weapons program is a deterrent and only to be used in ‘extreme circumstances’ to defend the country or its allies against attacks on civilians or major infrastructure. 

The 2020 update softened its language and removed mentions of using nuclear weapons to ‘prevail in conflict.’

For example, the 2019 report says, ‘Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.’

The updated 2020 version says, ‘Flexible and limited US nuclear response options can play an important role in restoring deterrence following limited adversary nuclear escalation. Limited nuclear use will create conditions that affect how commanders conduct operations.’

Russia, China, North Korea and Iran developed and increased their high-tech nuclear weapons programs since 2010

A recently released Pentagon report outlines four of the US’s major enemies’ nuclear weapons capabilities.

Russia: Russian strategy and doctrine emphasize the potential coercive and military uses of nuclear weapons. 

The country has upgraded its Soviet technology by developing new delivery capabilities. 

The country has intercontinental-range nuclear weapon systems, including a hypersonic glide vehicle; ground-launched cruise missiles, a nuclear-armed a undersea autonomous torpedoes. 

 China: ‘China continues to increase the number, capabilities, and protection of its nuclear forces.’

It has developed its ‘most advanced’ submarine-launched missiles and is developing a bomber, which would allow the country to fire weapons by land, sea and air. 

North Korea: Over the last few years, the country has ‘accelerated’ its pursuit of nuclear weapons and dramatically increased its missile flight testing, most recently including the testing of intercontinental-range missiles capable of reaching the US homeland. 

‘North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities poses the most immediate and dire proliferation threat to international security and stability.’

Iran: The country has the technology to develop a nuclear weapon within a year of when it decides to do so.

Iran’s ‘aggressive strategy and activities to destabilize neighboring governments, raises questions about its long-term commitment to forgoing nuclear weapons capability.’

Iran’s nuclear advances complicate Biden’s bid to revive the Obama deal

American and European officials estimate that Iran could now gather enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two to three months. (Bloomberg)
American and European officials estimate that Iran could now gather enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two to three months. (Bloomberg)

Iran’s nuclear advances complicate Biden’s bid to revive 2015 deal

Over the past year, Iran has made significant advances in its ability to amass enriched uranium, complicating the Biden administration’s effort to revive a 2015 deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s atomic ambitions.

Washington has sought to restart the accord, which was abandoned by President Donald Trump in 2018. After a delay of several weeks, Iran on Wednesday signaled that it would be ready to return to the negotiating table next month after the country’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, takes office.

American and European officials estimate that Iran could now gather enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two to three months.

U.S. officials say that, at least for now, they are confident a return to the terms of the 2015 accord will lengthen that so-called breakout time to around a year—the same as it was in January 2016, when the pact agreed to by the U.S., Iran and five other global powers went into effect.

“There will come a point—but we’re not there yet…where if Iran continues to advance its program and there’s no deal, then it will be very hard, if not impossible, to recapture the nonproliferation benefits” of the original deal, U.S. special Iran envoy Rob Malley told CNN on Wednesday. Mr. Malley said to avoid that, a deal needs to be concluded “in the foreseeable future.”

Assessments of Iran’s potential breakout time vary, depending on assumptions made about the equipment Iran has, its ability to use it and how quickly it can expand its capacity.

Some European officials involved in the talks say they believe Iran’s breakout time, if the pact were revived quickly, could already be less than a year and worry the time cushion could fall further if Tehran continues its nuclear work as talks drag on.

Western officials’ chief worry is that Iran has mastered technology needed to better employ some advanced centrifuges, which it uses to enrich uranium. In particular, Iran has become more effective in using its stock of second-generation so-called IR-2M machines.

Iran had more than a thousand IR-2M machines in 2016, but was barred from using them under the deal. Western diplomats at the time believed Iran’s expertise was too basic for Tehran to deploy them effectively to race to a nuclear weapon. That has now changed, several senior Western diplomats say.

Over the past year, Iran has deployed most of its IR-2M machines—which are three to four times faster than the centrifuges Iran is permitted under the accord to use—and has done so more speedily and successfully than many observers expected.

In addition to limiting the type of centrifuge Iran could use, the 2015 agreement required the removal of two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges. It also capped the amount of enriched uranium that Iran was allowed to possess at 300 kilograms. The level of permitted enrichment was limited to 3.67%. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90%.

Iran’s breakout time was supposed to remain at one year at least until 2026.

After Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord and imposed economic sanctions on Iran, Tehran began moving step-by-step to expand its nuclear activities.

Iran is now producing near-weapons-grade 60% enriched uranium. Last week, the United Nations’ atomic agency reported that Iran had moved forward with plans to produce enriched uranium metal, a material used in the core of a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is producing the metal for peaceful use.

Tehran has also restricted international inspectors’ access to its main Natanz nuclear facility and declined to extend an agreement with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to hand over camera footage and other monitoring material to the IAEA.

Iran says its nuclear work is entirely for peaceful purposes.

Given Iran’s progress on centrifuges, machines which spin uranium into higher purities, European officials have proposed a new three-pronged approach to lengthen Iran’s breakout time. In addition to keeping advanced centrifuges in storage and under seal, they want Iran to rip out the electronic infrastructure it is currently using to run machines banned under the deal and reduce Iran’s capacity for producing new centrifuges at its assembly plants.

Negotiators were close to agreeing that Iran’s uranium stockpile would be sent to Russia. Iran has insisted it won’t allow any of its more advanced centrifuges to be destroyed, say several people involved in talks.

Western diplomats are split into two broad camps on Iran’s strategy for the talks. Some say they believe Tehran wants to restore the 2015 deal but is delaying in the belief that the Biden administration’s eagerness to defuse a potential nuclear crisis could drive Washington to make concessions. Talks, which broke off June 20, may not restart until the second half of August, a senior European official said.

Meanwhile, Iran is using the slow pace of the talks to gain irreversible technical knowledge on uranium metal, centrifuges and production of higher-grade enriched uranium, Western officials say.

Other officials believe there is a real debate in Tehran over whether to return to the deal and, if so, what to seek in return.

Iran’s new president, Mr. Raisi, supported reviving the nuclear deal during his election campaign, but said immediately after that his team would first review in depth the results of the negotiations so far.

Iranian differences of opinion over conditions for returning to the deal have at times flashed into public view. Earlier this week, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who spearheaded the 2015 deal, criticized the country’s leadership for not allowing negotiations to be concluded after they resumed in April.

Hard-line politicians and media have long opposed the nuclear deal. The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes the key decisions on strategic issues like the nuclear program.

“They took away the opportunity to reach an agreement from this government,” Mr. Rouhani was quoted saying in Iranian media.

Iran has so far insisted that the U.S. must first drop all Trump-era sanctions, including those on human-rights and terror grounds, offer compensation for that decision and guarantee it won’t exit an agreement again before it would return to the accord.

U.S. and European officials say those demands won’t be accepted.

“We have repeatedly stressed that time is on no one’s side. With its latest steps, Iran is threatening a successful outcome to the Vienna talks despite the progress achieved in six rounds of negotiations to date,” the foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany said last week.

—Michael R. Gordon in Washington contributed to this article

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text)

Again Israel strikes outside the Temple Walls in retaliation for fire balloons: Revelation 11

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Updated 18 June 2021 

AFP Reuters 

June 17, 2021 22:50

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said.
The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting.
Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement.
“In response… fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.”
AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people.
Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out.
US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement.
“They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said.
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices.
The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.

America Has Lost the Proxy War against the Pakistani Nuclear Horn: Daniel

America Has Lost a Proxy War against Pakistan

When President Joe Biden declared the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after twenty years of fighting, he declared that the original objectives for the invasion had been achieved. “We were attacked, we went to war with clear goals,” he gravely intoned. “We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan, and it’s time to end this forever war.” Curiously, he omitted where exactly the founder of Al Qaeda had met his end.

The reaction was as swift as it was predictable. The New York Times, framing the debate along familiar terms, asked, “Will Afghanistan become a Terrorism Safe Haven Once Again?” The ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, warned Afghanistan would “become a safe haven for terrorists once again.” That there already exists “safe haven” for terrorists in and near the country was not mentioned.

Shortly after Biden’s announcement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reportedly expressed “appreciation for Pakistan’s support” during peace negotiations in Afghanistan with the Taliban. It is not clear whether Secretary Austin had in mind the full breadth of Pakistan’s activities in Afghanistan when referring to its “support” for these ongoing and inconclusive diplomatic talks.

Carl von Clausewitz declared that “the first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish…the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, not trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.” This most fundamental task of accurate conceptualization has also been the most overlooked and underrated in the formulation and implementation of U.S. military strategy.

As complex and confusing as the situation in Afghanistan is for foreign observers and visitors, the most fundamental lacuna in the analysis and strategy behind U.S. objectives in the country is a manifest failure to clearly acknowledge and accept the situation on the ground in Afghanistan for what it is: the United States has been waging and losing a proxy war against an alleged ally.

The mission to transform a barren, mountainous, landlocked, and impoverished country in one of the most remote parts of the Eurasian landmass—after decades of armed conflict and revolutionary upheaval—into a stable democracy with no safe havens for terrorism is tragic and difficult enough. It becomes indefensibly absurd when also claiming to do so in partnership with a country that bears the most responsibility for the continuing chaos and carnage in Afghanistan.

Axis or Ally?

Among all the moral compromises made by Washington in its diplomatic relationships during the War on Terror, the U.S. relationship with Islamabad might be the most destructive and counterproductive. Less than five months after the shock of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the existence of an “Axis of Evil” that represented the greatest threat to world peace. Notably, none of the countries identified had any role in the attacks, nor had any of their citizens. What was stranger yet about the composition of this “axis” was that these countries, as hostile as their regimes were to U.S. interests, did not include the world’s worst offender. When examining what went wrong in the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, it bears reviewing the central role Pakistan has played in sabotaging any prospects of victory.

It has long been an open secret that Pakistan has actively and consistently thwarted U.S. operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda since the attacks of September 11, 2001. For as long as the U.S. has been in Afghanistan, however, the polite fiction of Pakistan as a reliable ally has persisted despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As a state sponsor of terrorism, Pakistan has matched or exceeded the actions and patterns of sanctioned regimes in Iran and North Korea. The flagrant involvement of its so-called “deep state” in the finances and operations of known terrorist groups as a matter of course has also been far more direct and intimate than any of the suspected links attributed to the Gulf Arab states or their citizens. Yet in stark contrast to intense U.S. pressure on its Arab allies to crack down on terrorism, or U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea, Pakistan’s rulers have enjoyed relative impunity since 2001.

After the United States invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan gave shelter to elements of both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Osama Bin Laden himself would take up residence in an elite suburb in close proximity to Pakistan’s military academy in Abbottabad. After Bin Laden was finally found and killed, Pakistani authorities retaliated against local informants cooperating with U.S. intelligence. In spite of the evidence, there would be no major changes to the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

The designation of Pakistan as a “major non-NATO ally” under President Bush was followed by the next administration proclaiming that an “effective partnership with Pakistan” would be a core element of the U.S. war against the Taliban. Pakistan’s ostensible efforts to confront its own proxies would be supported by generous aid from the United States. As the Pentagon pressured the White House to escalate the war, increasing numbers of U.S. troops and civilian officials were being sent into harm’s way and tasked with implementing near impossible projects of social transformation. At the same time, the United States sent aid to the country that directed efforts to arm and train the Taliban insurgency. The absurd implications of U.S. policy and strategy are such that it would be as if America had waged the Vietnam War while also sending aid to Hanoi.

After Donald Trump became U.S. president, there was only a temporary change to relations with Islamabad after military aid was put on hold. After Trump met with Imran Khan, the military-backed prime minister who has praised Osama bin Laden, the aid program was resumed. Despite a promised withdrawal, U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan and U.S. aid to Pakistan continued.

A Good War or a Dumb War?

It should come as no surprise then that U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan has not yielded a political resolution to a decades-long conflict or that it has failed to retain the support of the U.S. public. Before either Trump or Biden announced a withdrawal, the Taliban had conquered or contested so much territory that the U.S. military simply stopping reporting on it.

While there are other more local and nuanced factors that contributed to the U.S. failure to bring order and stability to Afghanistan, including supporting a system of government that has never amounted to much more than warlord rule beyond Kabul, it is Pakistan that looms as the largest. The Taliban is not simply an indigenous insurgency in Afghanistan, as has been suggested. So critical is the role of Pakistan in sheltering and supporting the group that one intelligence official’s repeated briefings to the Obama administration were summarized as asserting that “there was no way to defeat the Taliban militarily, to eradicate them, or force them to surrender, unless the United States was prepared to invade Pakistan, an unstable nuclear weapons state.”

As neither stability nor democracy in Afghanistan can survive the persistence of warlord rule nor the insurgency of the Taliban, short of expanding the war to include U.S. confrontation with a neighboring nuclear-armed state, there is no path to lasting victories for U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. It might be doubted that the situation is so extreme, or that there might be some strategy or solution as of yet tried by U.S. policymakers and warfighters that can bring peace to Afghanistan. If such a possibility exists, it cannot involve ignoring the origin and nature of the struggle in which the United States has been unsuccessfully prosecuting for the last two decades.

There is no way to wage a politically correct proxy war, being careful to appease and avoid giving offense to the primary belligerent in the conflict and expect a successful outcome. If Washington is unprepared to hold Islamabad to account for being the malign actor in the international system it has become, there is no strategic justification to remain in Afghanistan.

There is a looming tragedy, to be sure, in the near future of Afghanistan when the U.S. withdraws. Estimates by the U.S. intelligence community suggest Kabul could fall to the Taliban in only six months after the last U.S. troops leave Afghan soil. It will bear keeping in mind when that happens that the Taliban was also making advances even after the U.S. had escalated the war effort in 2017. That it was able to do so with such relative impunity despite the presence of U.S. troops is the direct result of the relative impunity Pakistan has enjoyed under U.S. policy.

By withdrawing from Afghanistan, the United States is letting go of a false hope for a lost cause doomed by a polite fiction. As the global nexus of security threats to the U.S. shifts to the Chinese Communist Party, to whom the rulers of Pakistan have been eager to offer themselves up as loyal vassals, this should be only the beginning of a major shift in U.S. policy towards the region.

Israeli frustration with the continued dilemma outside the Temple Wall: Revelation 11

GAZA CITY, GAZA - JUNE 15: Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021. ( Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency )

Israeli frustration with the continued dilemma of Gaza

Dr Adnan Abu AmerMay 28, 2021

Flames are seen after an Israeli air strike hit Hamas targets in Gaza City, Gaza on June 15, 2021 [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]July 17, 2021 at 1:04 pm 

Two months after the end of the last Israeli aggression on Gaza, Israel admitted that there is no simple solution to the situation in the strip. The instability of the current ceasefire entails Israel to discuss a number of necessary steps to weaken Hamas and bring the Palestinian Authority (PA) back to Gaza.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz and senior officials agree that a sustained ceasefire in Gaza requires strengthening the PA and allowing it to participate in the reconstruction of Gaza, but the gap between the West Bank and Gaza runs deep.

Since the beginning of the war, Egypt has sought to lead an alternative strategy based on the assumption that the PA is gradually coming back to rule Gaza. This is echoing in the US and Israel as a fundamental change that allows for coordinated Israeli-Egyptian-US efforts. The main idea of this strategy is to support the strengthening of the PA and its return to Gaza. However, the current challenge is to transform this idea from rhetoric into practice on the ground.

The biggest dilemma facing Israel in Gaza is money reaching Hamas and how to design a reconstruction mechanism that ensures that the movement does not benefit from it. We are talking about a mechanism that was established after the 2014 war, but needs updating in order to achieve stability in Gaza. However, this step alone will not be enough to change the balance of power between Hamas and the PA. Strengthening the PA and facilitating its return to ruling Gaza requires Israel to undertake five fundamental steps.

The first step is to improve the chances of success for this idea. The two sides will not agree to participate in or lead an effort that is doomed to fail. To this end, Israel should ease restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza and support large projects, including the planning, construction and operation of a seaport under the supervision of the PA, taking into account Israel’s security needs.

The second step is for the PA to allow for more understandings between Fatah and Hamas about the distribution of power and responsibilities between them. Israel must support the formation of a technocratic government, and not veto it. This government, led by the PA, would be responsible for managing civil affairs in Gaza, subject to a guarantee mechanism that Hamas won’t have access to funds run by this government.

The third step concerns the lack of an effective means of defence and security in Gaza. Israel will not blame the PA, nor hold it responsible for any violation of the ceasefire by a third party.

As for the fourth step, the PA is not expected to cooperate with a strategy that only improves conditions in Gaza, so the whole proposed approach entails ensuring that the situation in the West Bank improves as well, regardless of how far Gaza is from it.

Finally, the fifth step relates to avoiding any Israeli provocation in the holy places in and around Jerusalem, maintaining the status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and not evacuating Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. These are all steps that do not go beyond the ideological boundaries of the new Israeli government, and none of the coalition members opposes measures directly concerning the quality of life, stability or security in the West Bank.

Taking these steps has a number of benefits for Israel; primarily, they would stop Hamas from claiming that it represents the Palestinians. More importantly, the Israeli government does not want to be drawn into the reoccupation of Gaza, and therefore it has an urgent need for a Palestinian government there. Israel should know that developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem affect stability in Gaza, and vice versa.

This means that two months after the Gaza war, the situation there is still unstable and dangerous. So far, negotiations over the prisoner exchange deal seem to be stalled, and the reconstruction of Gaza is still a distant dream. Indeed, Hamas was seriously hurt in the war, but it exited appearing victorious. During the days of the fighting, its fighters appeared confident, and some of them even became media stars on Arab networks. However, in reality, they know that they must soon either obtain a great deal of aid for the reconstruction of Gaza, or escalate the situation again if their demands are not met, as they had promised their supporters.

Over the past 14 years, Israel assumed that the policy of “divide and conquer” between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and between Fatah and Hamas, served its interests. However, none of this happened. During the last Gaza war, Israel realised that it is impossible to contain Hamas or to reach an understanding with it. Hamas is an ideological organisation with clear goals.

There is no doubt that Hamas wants to become master of the house in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and gain international recognition, so the next round of fighting with Hamas seems inevitable. It may happen now in the middle of the hot summer, or on another occasion. It is useful for the Israelis to understand that this time Hamas fighters will increase the production of rockets to refill their reservoirs and mine underground tunnels.

The increased strength of Hamas in the Palestinian street, especially in the West Bank, and Israel’s insistence on a new equation with the movement in Gaza, increase the chances of further military escalation to come. If Israelis try to clearly describe the situation in Gaza and summarise the results of the war, they may find it difficult to do so, or to find answers. This confirms that Gaza is a complex problem for Israel, and it seems that the last war is just a small break. Thus, the occupation army leadership continues to review the events of the war, draw lessons from it and prepare for the next one.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

What the South Korean Nuclear Horn Could Mean For American Foreign Policy: Daniel 7

What South Korea’s Iron Dome Could Mean For American Foreign Policy

On Monday, June 28, 2021, South Korea announced the development of a missile defense system to help protect itself against the recent aggression of North Korea. The technology is to be modeled after the Iron Dome, which is used by Israel to counter Hamas. The Iron Dome is designed to shoot incoming missiles out of the air before they can strike their targets. While this system is not one hundred percent effective, it has been useful to Israel in its ongoing war against Hamas. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has yet to comment on this recent development, but he is unlikely to be deterred. While many reasons could explain why South Korea is developing this new $2.6 billion missile defense system, it may be due to the recent foreign policy actions of the United States.

The conflict on the Korean Peninsula goes back to the end of World War II. Korea had been a Japanese colony until 1945, after which it was split along the 38th parallel first into two occupied zones and eventually into sovereign states. The North, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was supported by the Soviet Union, who fostered a communist government. The South, the First Republic of Korea, was backed by the United States with an anti-communist model. In 1950, North Korea invaded the South, in an attempt to unite the peninsula under communist rule, however, the United Nations, backed in large part by the United States, intervened. Three years later, the fighting ended with the two territories still divided along lines near the original 38th parallel, with both countries locked in stalemate to this day.  

For nearly sixty years, U.S. foreign policy followed an approach of consistent military, economic, and political support of South Korea. The South largely flourished and became a powerhouse in the region. While tensions with the North remained high, South Korea could count on strong U.S. backing to help drive stability and peace in the region. 

However, Donald Trump’s election in 2016 disrupted the balance. Trump led with a strongly nationalist and an “America First” agenda. His isolationist approach and political rhetoric not only shook traditional alliances, but also confidence in America as a stabilizing global leader. With regard to the Korean peninsula, Trump’s policies were uncoordinated and inconsistent. Once, Trump issued threats of nuclear war with North Korea on Twitter. In an interview with the New York Times, Former Prime Minister Moon Jae-in said he believes Trump “failed” at bringing peace to the Korean peninsula, and that “he beat around the bush and failed to pull it through.”

Joe Biden’s election brought a shift in American foreign policy away from nationalism and with the promise of re-establishing American leadership in foreign policy. Biden’s administration quickly made clear its support of South Korea with a joint statement with the South Korean nation: “the shared values of the ROK-US Alliance undergird the two countries’ commitment to opposing all activities that undermine and destabilize the rules-based international order.”

Despite the recent U.S. foreign policy shift, South Korea’s development of the Iron Dome may be a sign that its long-standing faith in America’s alliance and support has been shaken. Given the shifting and unpredictable American foreign policy agenda, South Korea’s desire to develop this new technology could be entirely justified as self defense, since it may not be able to rely on the U.S. for constant protection anymore. The development of the Iron Dome could be a stepping stone towards better protecting South Korea against the North, but sends another message; America has become too unreliable of an ally. It has become clear that with America’s democratic process, there can be a switch between nationalism and globalism in just a few years, which could have drastic repercussions on the state of international affairs.