Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant GuardStory by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009 This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults. The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said. “In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said. This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday. Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director. “A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault. Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added. Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage. “It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi. The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added. “You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said. Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents. Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.” “I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said. Training concluded Thursday.
Senior Hamas official says that “prisoners of the occupation will never see the light until our prisoners of freedom see it.”
Arutz Sheva Staff , Oct 16 , 2021 11:06 PM
Terrorists releasedFlash 90
Khalil al-Haya, a member of the Hamas Politburo and a senior member of the movement in the Gaza Strip, sent a strong message to Israel amid continuing difficulties in negotiating an exchange deal in which captive IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians will be returned in exchange for the release of Palestinian Arab security prisoners.
In an interview with Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel, al-Haya said that “prisoners of the occupation will never see the light until our prisoners of freedom see it”, emphasizing that Hamas has adhered to its demand for a new deal and is ready to carry it out if Israel carries out its obligations. Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar recently hinted that Hamas would demand the release of 1,111 security prisoners.
He warned Israel against continuing the “criminal” policy towards security prisoners in Israeli prisons and in a message to security prisoners said: “We stand by your side, we will never leave you alone in the confrontation with the actions of the occupation and harm committed against you.”
In another context, al-Haya said that Hamas would not agree to grant Israel an unconditional ceasefire and demanded, and could even forcibly extract, the complete lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip. Al-Haya threatened that if Israel did not act in accordance with Hamas’ demands, Hamas would re-escalate the security situation
BAGHDAD — Standing at a podium with an Iraqi flag by his side, the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr looked the part of a statesman as he read a postelection address.
In the 18 years since he formed the Mahdi Army militia to battle occupying U.S. forces, the onetime firebrand has refined his delivery. His formal Arabic is more proficient, and his voice more assured. Looking up to address the camera, he raised a finger in emphasis in remarks carefully crafted to send messages to both the United States and Iran after his party picked up seats in last week’s parliamentary election.
In 2004, as Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters took on U.S. forces with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in Baghdad and across the southern provinces, the United States pledged to kill or capture the Shiite cleric.
Next to Al Qaeda, he posed the biggest threat to the American occupation in Iraq, miring U.S. troops in fighting in the streets and alleys of Iraqi cities as the military fought both Sunni and Shiite-based insurgencies.
Although still unpredictable, the cleric is consistently an Iraqi nationalist and now seems to be emerging as an arm’s-length American ally, helping the United States by preventing Iraq from tilting further into Iran’s axis.
“All embassies are welcome, as long as they do not interfere in Iraqi affairs and government formation,” Mr. al-Sadr said in a reference aimed at the United States, whose embassy was stormed two years ago by what were believed to be members of Kitaib Hezbollah, one of the biggest Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. “Iraq is for Iraqis only.”
In preliminary results from last Sunday’s elections, the Sadrist Movement gained roughly 20 seats, giving it up to 73 seats in the 329-member parliament. That leaves Mr. al-Sadr with the biggest single bloc in Parliament and a decisive voice in choosing the next Iraqi prime minister.
In his remarks, the cleric made a pointed reference to Iranian-backed militias, some of which have grown more powerful than Iraq’s official security forces and pose a threat to the United States in Iraq.
“From now on, arms must be restricted in the hands of the state,” he said in the address, broadcast on Iraqi state television. “The use of weapons shall be prevented outside of the state’s framework.” Even for those claiming to be the “resistance” to the U.S. presence, he said, “it is time for the people to live in peace, without occupation, terrorism, militias, kidnapping and fear.”
The self-styled resistance groups are the same Iranian-backed militias that launched drone and rocket attacks on the American Embassy and U.S. military bases after the U.S. killing of a leading Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and a senior Iraqi security official in Baghdad last year.
An aide to the Shiite cleric said disarming groups that are not under government control would also apply to Mr. al-Sadr’s own militia forces.n=0
“No country wants forces that are stronger than its army,” said Dhia al-Assadi, a former top official in the cleric’s political movement. He said Mr. al-Sadr would leave it to the incoming government to decide whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq.
The United States has agreed to withdraw all combat troops from the country by Dec. 31, although Washington does not consider its troops there currently to be on a combat mission. Under that agreement, the number of U.S. forces — about 2,000 in Iraq at Baghdad’s invitation — is expected to remain the same.
“That is labeling or classifying the troops as trainers and not fighters,” said Mr. al-Assadi, who served as the head of Mr. al-Sadr’s former Ahrar political bloc. “The decision should be revisited again and decided by Parliament and the government.”
Mr. al-Assadi said he does not foresee any change in an existing ban on senior officials of the Sadrist Movement from meeting with U.S. or British officials.
Once a fierce sectarian defender of Iraq’s Shiite majority, Mr. al-Sadr has expanded his reach in recent years, reaching out to Sunnis, Christians and other minorities. After telling his followers to protect Christians, young men from Mr. Sadr’s stronghold in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad’s Sadr City began wearing large crosses around their necks in a sign of solidarity. In a previous election, the Sadrists formed an alliance with the Communist Party, which is officially atheist.
Externally, he has fostered relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at a time when those countries’ Sunni Arab rulers were hostile to Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Domestically, one of his main demands is to clean up Iraq’s dysfunctional and deeply corrupt political system, which appoints people to senior government posts on the basis of party loyalty rather than competence.
“He has grown and evolved,” said Nabeel Khoury, a former U.S. State Department official who served in Iraq in 2003. “But I think to some extent we underestimated him in the very beginning.”
Mr. Khoury said that he was approached in 2003 by Mr. al-Sadr’s aides as Iraq’s first governing council was being decided.
“We had coffee, we talked and they said Sadr was interested in playing a political role,” said Mr. Khoury, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. But Iraqi political figures who had returned from exile did not want Mr. al-Sadr involved, Mr. Khoury said, and the United States followed their counsel.
A few months later, the cleric formed his Mahdi Army militia to fight occupying troops.
When U.S. forces had an opportunity to kill Mr. al-Sadr during a battle in Najaf, Washington told them to stand down, also on the advice of the Iraqi expatriate politicians, said Mr. Khoury, adding: “They knew if Sadr was killed it would become a big problem for them.”
Mr. al-Sadr, 47, is the youngest son of a revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein in 1999 after demanding religious freedom for Iraq’s Shiites. The Sadr family commands the loyalty of millions, many of them poor and disposed, most of whom believe his election win was ordained by God.
In Sadr City, the Sadrist organization provides food, support for orphans and widows and many other services the Iraqi government fails to deliver.
“He would like to achieve certain objectives, and the main objective is social justice,” said Mr. al-Assadi of the cleric’s aims. He likened Mr. al-Sadr’s goals to those of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Ghandi.
But unlike the Black civil rights leader or India’s pacifist icon, Mr. al-Sadr has overseen an armed militia that has waxed and waned but never entirely gone away.
The Mahdi Army has been blamed for fueling Iraq’s past sectarian violence. As it battled with Sunni fighters of Al Qaeda for supremacy in Iraq between 2006 and 2008, Mr. al-Sadr’s fighters were accused of running death squads and conducting sectarian cleansings of Baghdad neighborhoods.
Mr. al-Sadr has said that not all the fighters were under his control.
In 2008, after losing a fight with Iraqi government forces for control of Basra, Mr. al-Sadr — who lacks the religious credentials of his father — abruptly left for Iran to pursue his theological studies.
Yet he has long had an uneasy relationship with Tehran, and while he cannot afford to antagonize its leaders, he advocates an Iraq free of both Iranian and American influence.
“I think he has his own space in which he walks, and his base is not dictated by any country, especially not the Iranians,” said Elie Abouaoun, a director at the United States Institute of Peace, a U.S. government-funded think tank. “I think that he is much less sectarian than many, many others because he has a nationalist vision of Iraq.”
IDF observers noticed two suspects trying to cross the no-mans-land at the Gaza border, the IDF Spokespersons unit reported on Twitter on Friday eveningUpon reaching the border, the two suspects put down an improvised explosive device, which exploded not long after.IDF soldiers arrived on the scene and arrested the suspects, taking them in for questioning
BY JOSEPH DETRANI, OPINION CONTRIBUTORThe views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
The recent death of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a national hero in Pakistan who was the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program, is an appropriate time to reflect on how an individual or network can provide nuclear technology and know-how to rogue states and terrorist organizations seeking nuclear weapons.
A.Q. Khan was trained in Europe as a metallurgical engineer and employed by the Anglo-Dutch-German nuclear engineering consortium Urenco, where he gained unique access to and expertise working with uranium centrifuges. He brought this knowledge, and documentation, to Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program.
Iraq and Syria were approached, but it was Iran, North Korea and Libya that aggressively pursued a relationship with Khan. Libya eventually abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in return for international legitimacy and normalized relations with the United States and United Kingdom. Iran and North Korea have persisted with their programs.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran – signed by Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., before Donald Trump withdrew our participation in May 2018 – requires Iran’s compliance with halting numerous nuclear programs for a certain period, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has breached the accord several times.
North Korea reportedly provided Syria with training, materials and assistance in the construction of a plutonium nuclear reactor in Al-Kibar. Israel bombed this facility in September 2007, just prior to its going into operation. Al Qaeda reportedly also attempted to acquire nuclear weapons and fissile materials from North Korea for a dirty bomb.
There is appropriate current concern that other nation-states will try to acquire nuclear weapons capability, usually for deterrence purposes. Indeed, if North Korea is permitted to retain its nuclear weapons, South Korea, Japan and others in the region may decide that, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments, they need their own nuclear weapons.The same applies to Iran. If it pursues a nuclear weapons program, it’s likely that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will pursue their own nuclear weapons programs, despite U.S. nuclear deterrence commitments.It’s logical to assume that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations continue to seek nuclear and biological weapons to attack the U.S., its allies and partners. And the Taliban’s return to leadership in Afghanistan – and their complicity with 9/11 by permitting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to reside in Afghanistan and plot against the U.S. – must be of immediate concern to the U.S. and its allies.nullKhan showed the world that one serial proliferator can provide the technology and know-how necessary to a few nation-states interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. Ensuring that Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon and that North Korea denuclearizes completely and verifiably is necessary if we want to ensure that other countries – especially in East Asia and the Middle East – do not pursue their own nuclear weapons programs.The proliferation of nuclear states, and the likelihood that a nuclear weapon or fissile material for a dirty bomb is acquired by a rogue state or terrorist organization, must be of the highest concern to the United States and our allies.Joseph R. DeTrani was the former special envoy for negotiations with North Korea and the former director of the National Counterproliferation Center. The views expressed in this publication are his and do not imply endorsement of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or any other U.S. government agency.
Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)
China made significant strides in space weapons capabilities in August as they secretly tested an advanced nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, The Financial Times reported on Saturday night.The report said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising toward its target, which it missed by about 25 miles.
The new missile reportedly caught the US by surprise, with a source telling FT that China’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters on Sunday.
The hypersonic weapons, also tested by the US and Russia, include glide vehicles that fly at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) – approximately one mile per minute – and are launched into space on a rocket, orbiting the Earth under their own momentum.The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.
According to an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, the newly tested weapon, armed with a nuclear warhead, will help China “negate US defense systems that are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles,” FT said.America’s defense systems, which are focused on the North Pole, could be completely disregarded as the new weapon could potentially fly over the South Pole, according to FT.Advertisementhttps://69d722ee720fb23f0d7ae54de0558193.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0“We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue: capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.The US and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles, and North Korea said last month that it had test-fired a newly developed one.
At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly toward targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,850 mph).
When it comes to prospects for restarting talks with Tehran aimed at restoring the tattered 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the tone in Washington this week has been decidedly downbeat.
“With every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he met in Washington with foreign ministers from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The top U.S. diplomat then delved into a little saber-rattling. “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course” – meaning if Iran doesn’t put a halt to continuing advances in its nuclear program and get back to the negotiating table.
But beneath the public pessimism and tough talk are a number of economic and regional political factors that suggest a resumption of diplomacy between two arch adversaries – and revival of the 2015 international agreement that temporarily closed Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon – is still more likely than not.
Those factors include big-ticket pressures like Iran’s need for relief from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions and President Joe Biden’s hopes of avoiding a nuclear crisis that could overtake his domestic agenda.
A range of factors
But other, more subtle factors favoring diplomacy include Iran’s growing relations with two big regional powers – Russia and China; Iran’s fraught but budding relations with its Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia; and Israel’s less strident opposition to a U.S. return to a deal former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.
Even the spike in global energy costs is contributing to mounting pressure on Iran to return to indirect talks with the United States on restoring the nuclear accord, some analysts argue.
How do oil prices fit into a list of glimmers favoring diplomacy?
Consider this: China, one of six powers that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with Iran, finds its economy hampered by energy shortages and rising prices. Beijing would welcome the eased access to Iran’s oil that would accompany a revived deal.
At the same time, oil-producer Iran – its economy stuck in the doldrums despite recent modest growth – would very much like to reap the benefits from the rising prices that a return to licit oil sales would offer, some international analysts say.
And as Tehran’s recent accession to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation suggests, the Iranians have been putting more of their economic eggs into the China basket and are aiming for bilateral economic ties to flourish.
The alternative serves no one
Yet even with all those factors contributing, the key driver of a return to talks is going to be a decision from the two main protagonists – the U.S. and especially Iran – that the alternative to dialogue serves no one.
“The bottom line is that restoring the deal serves the best interests of both Iran and the United States,” says Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington.
“If the talks to restore the JCPOA fail, the likelihood of a nuclear crisis, the likelihood of a return to a coercive sanctions strategy, the likelihood of military strikes, all of it goes up,” she adds. “But those likelihoods don’t benefit [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi, and they don’t benefit Biden.”
President Biden entered the White House pledging to restore the JCPOA, and earlier this year it appeared that a U.S. return to the deal – and returning Iran to compliance with the deal’s nuclear limitations – was imminent. (Once the U.S. pulled out in 2018, Iran questioned the deal’s validity and eventually returned to prohibited activities. Those include spinning increasingly sophisticated centrifuges delivering a higher purity of highly enriched uranium, a key step on the road to building a nuclear weapon).
But the sixth round of talks ended in April without an agreement, and then the hard-liner Mr. Raisi was elected president in June.
Speculation over a return to Vienna for a seventh round of talks has since followed the path of a roller coaster, with sudden ascents of optimism followed by chutes of despair.
The last two weeks are a case in point. Last week Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said in Moscow that Iran was finalizing diplomatic consultations and “will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna.” But that was followed this week by plummeting hopes and warnings from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then Secretary Blinken, that the diplomatic window is closing.
“The Americans keep talking about how hopes for diplomacy are growing dim, opportunities are diminishing, a window is shutting, but ultimately their rhetoric doesn’t sync with their behavior, and what their behavior says is that they really are trying very hard to keep the door open,” says Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow specializing in Iranian security and political issues at Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
In response, he adds, Iran’s new class of hard-liners is finding a “certain glee” in “turning the superpower into the supplicant” and “trying to tempt Washington into premature sanctions relief.” Those in power in Tehran now are “more risk tolerant and escalation friendly, and more keen to drive a harder bargain.”
This does not mean Tehran won’t eventually return to the Vienna talks and even the JCPOA, Mr. Ben Taleblu says. But he says Iran is demonstrating the objective it intends to pursue if it does return to the negotiating table: “Get more but offer less.”
Still, not all Iranians are on board with the Raisi government’s maximalist approach to nuclear diplomacy.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the former foreign minister who was former Secretary of State John Kerry’s Iranian counterpart in negotiating the JCPOA, said in a public online chat last week that Iran had an “opportunity” to return to the deal “while keeping its dignity intact,” according to the Amwaj.media website.
Mr. Zarif also quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him that, “If, when the U.S. declares that it wishes to return to the JCPOA, Iran takes a hard line, then the whole world will turn against” Iran – something Mr. Putin added was already happening.
Iran’s “Eastern orientation”
The role of Russia and China in getting Tehran to “yes” may be crucial. Mr. Ben Taleblu notes that the Iranians have long talked about an “Eastern orientation” of their foreign policy as a way to offset Western influence. And while that reorientation may be a long-term goal, he says it points to where Iran is headed – and suggests that Tehran may prefer not to alienate either Moscow or Beijing by precipitating a regional crisis.
“Politically Moscow matters to Iran, but economically Beijing matters much more, and the Iranians can’t easily disregard that right now” given their weak economy, he says.
Ms. Davenport of the Arms Control Association adds that even if China is unwilling to exert Moscow’s style of overt pressure on Tehran, Beijing clearly prefers a return of the JCPOA.
“The greater access to the Iranian oil market that would accompany a deal would clearly benefit China in a variety of ways,” she says, adding that “from the big-picture perspective, Chinese interests suffer if there’s an escalation of tensions and conflict in the region.”
Just how much that kind of external factor matters to Tehran remains to be seen.
For Mr. Ben Taleblu, the U.S. needs to move beyond rhetoric and show some teeth if it wants to get Iran back to Vienna. And he’s not alone in thinking something has to happen soon.
For now, Ms. Davenport says she sees Iran’s nuclear advances as aimed primarily at “increasing Iran’s leverage” in eventual talks. But she worries that some of the advances Iran is making are getting to a point of no return.
“My concern is that the advances Iran is making will become more difficult to reverse over the next few months,” she says. And if over that period Iran’s hard-liners continue to play hard to get and meet the Americans with new demands, she says, “that delay could be fatal.”
Staff writer Scott Peterson in London contributed to this report.