While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
That number drops to 51% of Israelis when Israel’s entire population is taken into account, including its significant Arab minority.
A significant majority of Jewish Israelis, 58%, would support a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities even without a green light from Washington, according to an Israel Democracy Institute report published Wednesday.
That number drops to 51% of Israelis when Israel’s entire population is taken into account, including its significant Arab minority.
Still, for a country that was once ready to downgrade or replace its prime ministers if they did not get along with a US president, and where many security experts consider at least a quiet US “wink” as necessary for an attack on Iran, that the general public feels differently was telling.
The Israeli Voice Index survey for November 2021 was published by IDI’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research.Less than a third (31%) of Jewish Israelis would not support action against Iran without American approval, while around 82% of Arab Israelis would want the Biden administration to sign off.
US President Joe Biden (credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
Next, the report noted that the gaps between the political camps (among Jewish Israelis) was large, with 67% on the political Right supporting a strike without US consent, while only 37.5% of the political Left would support such a strike.
Perhaps most importantly, 50% of the ever-growing political Center in Israel would support such an attack.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (slated to replace Bennett in 2023) are all viewed as either having right-wing or centrist constituencies.
Though the government also has left-wing and Israeli-Arab parties, these three officials would be the dominant deciders about whether a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program would be necessary, and whether they would be prepared to do so even without US consent.
When Israel struck Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, then-US president Ronald Reagan was furious, but Israel rode out the fallout.
In contrast, when Israel struck Syria’s nuclear program in 2007, then-US president George Bush was supportive after the fact, and the issue had been discussed between the governments.
The Biden administration is not expected to green-light an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities short of the regime being close to being able to fire a nuclear missile, whereas Jerusalem might feel a need to act at an earlier date to avoid missing its window of opportunity.
Next, 54% of respondents thought that Iran is an existential danger to a “large” or “very large” extent to Israel.
About a quarter of respondents viewed Iran as a “medium danger,” while a minority (13%) saw it as posing only a “small danger.”
On this issue, the report again found a large gap between the Jewish and the Arab interviewees.
A large majority (62%) of the Jewish Israelis thought that Iran constitutes an existential danger to a “large” or “very large” extent, while only a minority (19%) of Arab Israelis agreed.
The survey was conducted on the Internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) from November 29 to December 1.
Six hundred and fourteen men and women were interviewed in Hebrew, and 150 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population.
The maximum sampling error was 3.59 %+/- at a confidence level of 95%, with the fieldwork handled by the Midgam Institute.
New Delhi [India], December 8 (ANI): Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari on Wednesday said Pakistan continues to sponsor terrorism despite its economic weakness and is unlikely to shed its Kashmir oriented strategy. “On the Western Front, we continue to be in no war no peace situation, Pakistan is unlikely to shed its Kashmir oriented strategy for the foreseeable future. Despite Pakistan‘s own internal problems and economic weaknesses, it will continue to sponsor terrorism,” Air Chief said during his address at the 18th Subroto Mukerjee seminar organised by Centre for Air Power Studies. He mentioned that Pakistan armed forces have formulated a new concept of war-fighting and have acquired and equipped themselves with the latest technology. “Strategically, we are making a transition from fighting a predominantly defensive war to adopting a more aggressive approach for an offensive defence under the nuclear umbrella,” Air chief said. He also revealed that Pakistan Air Force has built 24 forward operating bases along with six satellite bases which provide greater flexibility and ability to influence battles across a larger spectrum. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari was speaking at the 18th Subroto Mukerjee Seminar organised by at Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) as a chief guest. Air Chief also added that in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous geopolitical environment there is a strong linkage between security and development. (ANI)
Just days before Annalena Baerbock is sworn in as Germany’s new foreign minister, the co-leader of the Green Party gave the taznewspaper a widely-read interview on foreign policy issues. Baerbock’s statements make two things clear: On the one hand, the “traffic light” coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, which will officially take over government business on Wednesday, will intensify the grand coalition’s war and rearmament policies, especially with regard to the nuclear powers Russia and China. Secondly, the former pacifists of the Greens, who launched the first German foreign military intervention since the end of the Nazi regime when the party was last in power between 1998 and 2005, are once again playing the central role.
With an aggressiveness that is otherwise seen only from extreme right-wing and militarist circles, Baerbock linked Germany’s ability to pursue an aggressive foreign and great power policy with nuclear rearmament. “It is precisely this question of nuclear weapons that makes it clear that in the future we will again pursue an active German foreign policy that faces the dilemmas of global politics,” she explained. “We stand by our responsibility within the framework of NATO and the EU and also for nuclear participation.”
As if this was not enough, she went a step further. In the midst of the pandemic, which has already cost more than 100,000 lives in Germany alone, and which the government allegedly lacks the economic resources to combat, she reaffirmed the traffic light coalition’s call for the procurement of new combat aircraft capable of deploying nuclear weapons. “We have to procure the successor system for the Tornado because the conventional capabilities have to be replaced. So it’s not just about so-called atomic bombs. We will then have to continue talking about the issue of nuclear certification,” she declared.
Neither Baerbock nor the taz spell out what these plans mean. In financial terms, they dwarf all rearmament projects since the end of World War II. Germany is planning to replace the outdated Tornado aircraft by procuring at least 90 new Eurofighters and 45 American F-18 fighter jets. Total cost: almost 20 billion euros. And that is only the beginning. Germany and France are currently developing the European Future Combat Air System, which will cost several hundred billion euros by 2040.
Baerbock made no secret of the fact that the rearmament is primarily directed against Moscow and Beijing. When the taz stated that “Russia has become more threatening,” Baerbock replied, “The legitimate security interests of the states in Central and Eastern Europe in particular must be taken seriously.” A “values-based foreign policy” is “always an interplay of dialogue and rigor. In the long run, eloquent silence is not a form of diplomacy, even if it has been seen that way by some in recent years,” she said.
In other words: the new federal government will intensify the aggressive course towards war against Russia. In fact, the foreign policy towards Moscow in recent years has not consisted of “eloquent silence,” but has followed a line that is directly linked to the imperialist great power policy of the German Empire and of Hitler. In 2014, Berlin supported the right-wing coup in Ukraine to install an anti-Russian regime in Kiev and weaken Moscow. Since 2017, the German army has been relocating combat troops to Eastern Europe as part of the so-called NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).
The Greens played a particularly aggressive role from the start. In the protests on the Maidan in Kiev, which were dominated by right-wing extremist forces, both the party-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation and many leading Green Party members were actively involved. In doing so, they openly defended and played down the alliance with fascist figures such as Svoboda leader Oleg Tyahnybok.
Now they are going one step further and calling for the Ukrainian army and the fascist militias allied with it to be armed against Russia. In the election campaign, co-leader and vice-chancellor-designate, Robert Habeck, travelled at the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the front in eastern Ukraine, declaring that he considered “Ukraine’s wishes for arms deliveries in view of the war in the east of the country to be justified.”
It is now clear which strategy the NATO powers are pursuing. The US-led military alliance is pressing ahead with the offensive against Russia to distract attention from the impact of the criminal pandemic policy at home. NATO is holding massive military maneuvers on the Russian border and arming Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles, guided-weapon-armed warships and anti-aircraft missiles. The Kiev government has not denied Russian reports that the Ukrainian military is gathering 125,000 soldiers on the border with Russia.
Baerbock also supports the US war course against China—which no less threatens to trigger nuclear war. “As European democracies and part of a transatlantic democratic alliance,” we are “also in a systemic competition with an authoritarian regime like China,” she raged in the taz. In this regard, it is important “to seek strategic solidarity with democratic partners, to defend our values and interests together and to persistently promote these values in our foreign policy.”
In fact, the issue at stake is not “values,” but tangible economic and geostrategic interests. China is a “competitor, especially when it comes to the question of future technological leadership,” Baerbock herself admits. In order to assert its own interests, Baerbock appealed for a more aggressive European policy on China under German leadership. She threatened to restrict China’s access to European markets and did not rule out a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
Europeans should “not make themselves smaller than we are. We are one of the largest domestic markets in the world,” she boasted. China in particular has “massive interests in the European market.” If, for example, “there is no longer any access for products that come from regions like Xinjiang, where forced labor is common practice, this is a big problem for an exporting country like China,” claimed Baerbock. This “lever of the common internal market” works “only if all 27 member states pull together and not, as in the past, Germany as the largest member state formulates its own China policy.” We need “a common European policy on China,” she concluded.
The Greens specialize in using phrases about human rights, democracy and climate protection to mobilize wealthy layers of the petty bourgeoisie for an aggressive foreign and war policy. Baerbock personifies this clientele and the turn to the right of their party like no other. She became a member of the Greens in 2005, when the Schröder-Fischer government broke up due to resistance among workers and young people against the red-green coalition’s attacks on social welfare programmes and pro-war policies.
Moscow ties with Washington in an ‘unsatisfactory state’
The bilateral ties between Washington and Moscow were in an “unsatisfactory state”, according to the Kremlin.
It said Vladimir Putin proposed removing limits on the functioning of their respective embassies following a tit-for-tat row in which each country has reduced the number of diplomats that the other can post.
The two world leaders both emphasised their desire to normalise relations and continue cooperating on issues of mutual interest such as cyber security, a spokesperson said. 17 hours ago22:27Tara Fair
Biden and Putin ‘a long way from agreeing on anything’
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are “a long way from agreeing on anything,” warns a director of an international crisis group.
Olga Oliker, program director for Europe and Central Asia at International Crisis Group, said: “Two hours suggests to me they had a substantive conversation.
“But they’re a long way from agreeing on anything.
“But since these aren’t easy issues, it’s not a bad sign – as long as everyone keeps talking.”
The Kremlin, which said before Tuesday’s meeting that it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring any intention to attack Ukraine and said that its troop posture is defensive.18 hours ago22:05Tara Fair
Kremlin accuses Ukraine of behaving provocatively
A Kremlin statement outlining the discussion held between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of behaving provocatively.
Mr Putin claimed that Ukraine was taking a “destructive line” aimed at dismantling agreements from 2014 and 2015 designed to end the war with Russian-backed separatists.
In response to an accusation that Russia was behaving in a threatening manner, Mr Putin responded that: “it is actually NATO that is making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory and is building up its military potential at our borders”.
The Kremlin explained: “Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia.”18 hours ago21:40Tara Fair
Johnson, Biden and EU leaders agree on continued dialogue with Russia
Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and other European leaders have agreed on the need for ongoing dialogue with Russia aimed at ending its threatening behaviour towards Ukraine.
President Biden spoke to Mr Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the US president spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Ukraine.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders underlined the importance of Russia ceasing their threatening behaviour towards Ukraine.
“They agreed on the need for ongoing dialogue with Russia to encourage this outcome.
“The leaders agreed to stay in close contact and to coordinate their approaches to this issue.”19 hours ago21:02Tara Fair
Presidents recall US-Russian alliance during WW2
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin discussed the cooperative relationship between their two nations during the second world war during a video call today, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.
The two leaders spoke fondly of the Russian-American summit held in Geneva in June 2021 which led them to discuss the alliance in WW2.
The document claims they agreed the sacrifices made then should not be forgotten, and the alliance itself should serve as an example for building contacts and working together in today’s realities.19 hours ago20:42Tara Fair
Putin demands end of NATO expansion
Vladimir Putin used his virtual call with Joe Biden on Tuesday to demand legally binding security guarantees that would rule out the expansion of NATO.
During a two hour conversation with the US president via video call, Mr Putin claimed NATO was bolstering its military potential near Russia’s borders and “making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
“Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia,” the Kremlin said.
Mr Putin said the idea that Ukraine could join NATO and the possibility of the alliance deploying missiles against Russia was a “red line” it would not allow to be crossed. 19 hours ago20:35Tara Fair
US threatens Russia with economic sanctions
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Joe Biden told Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine, the United States and its allies will respond with economic measures.
The US president warned Mr Putin of “strong economic and other measures” as punishment should Moscow start a military conflict.
“There was a lot of give and take, there was no finger-wagging, but the president was crystal clear where the United States stands on all of these issues,” Mr Sullivan added. 20 hours ago19:59Tara Fair
Ukraine thanks Biden for support, urges Russia to ease tensions by diplomatic means
Ukraine is grateful for the support given by US president Joe Biden and has urged Russia to use diplomatic means to ease tensions, according to an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff.
Mykhailo Podolyak said: “We are grateful to President Biden for his unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“We support President Biden’s call on the Russian leader to return to diplomatic instruments and ensure de-escalation in our region.
“We will continue to coordinate with the American side to achieve concrete results in the interests of Ukraine.”20 hours ago19:14Tara Fair
Biden voices his concern to Putin in tense virtual talk
Joe Biden has used his virtual meeting with Vladimir Putin to voice his deep concerns about Russia’s actions towards Ukraine, the White House has claimed.
A White House statement said: “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the US and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”
The US president also took the opportunity to reiterate his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy, the statement said.
The two leaders also discussed the US-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, ransomware and Iran, during the two-hour meeting, the White House revealed. 22 hours ago17:46Tara Fair
Biden locked in talks with Putin for two hours
The virtual meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, in which they discussed the international concern that Russia could be plotting to attack Ukraine, lasted more than two hours.
The world leaders were locked in talks from 6:08 pm to 8:10 pm Moscow time, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported.
Boris Johnson to enter crisis talks with Western countries
Boris Johnson is set to join leaders from Germany, Italy, France and the United States at 18:00 following Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with the Russian president.
The talks will discuss the threat that Russia will launch an attack on Ukraine.
Russia denies plotting to attack its neighbour but has amassed an estimated 175,000 soldiers along the border. 22 hours ago17:18Tara Fair
Biden hopes to meet Putin in person, according to Russian footage
US President Joe Biden has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he hoped he could meet him in person the next time they meet, according to Russian state TV footage.
The Kremlin said it hoped the two leaders could hold an in-person summit to discuss what it has described as the lamentable state of US-Russia ties.
Mr Biden and Mr Putin greeted each other in a friendly manner at the start of the virtual talks which are expected to be tense after threats made on either side.
Moscow vehemently denies they intend to attack Ukraine. 23 hours ago16:46Tara Fair
Putin ‘firmly believes’ Russians and Ukrainians are ‘one people’
Russian president Vladimir Putin “firmly believes” that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people”, according to an essay he wrote earlier this year.
The 5,000-word essay written by the Russian president was published in July, and called “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”.
The essay goes some way to explaining how the Russian president views the relationship between his country and Ukraine.
During the extensive thought-piece, Mr Putin says the two countries are part of “the same historical and spiritual space”.
He also laments “forces” that attempt to “undermine” their “unity” and seek to “divide” them. 24 hours ago15:48Tara Fair
What can be expected from the Biden – Putin call?
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin began virtual talks on Ukraine and other subjects on Tuesday, Russian state television reported.
The conversation comes amid Western fears that Moscow plans to attack Ukraine.
President Biden is expected to warn Mr Putin that Russia could face the toughest economic sanctions yet if they choose to invade their southern neighbour.
One source claimed the sanctions could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies.
The threat of sanctions is designed to dissuade Mr Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to launch an attack.
The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.
Phone call between Putin and Biden underway
The phone call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is now underway.
British Government ‘deeply concerned’
Vicky Ford, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office minister, has told the House of Commons that the government remains “deeply concerned” about Russia’s military build-ups “in and around Ukraine.”
She explained: “The UK is very clear: any military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake.
“The Russian government should expect significant strategic consequences. The cost of an invasion would be catastrophically high.”
She added that “[Putin] needs to de-escalate now and return to diplomatic channels”.
Good afternoon from London. I’m Tara Fair, I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on the threat of Russian military aggression for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.
Is the real target the West?
Some analysts have said that a fresh annexation of Ukraine wouldn’t be in Mr Putin’s interest, and suspect his true intentions could, in fact, lie in the West.
US President Joe Biden will meet with Russia’s Vladmir Putin shortly to discuss the situation.
Government needs to ‘protect our democratic, poltical system’
Labour MP Chris Bryant said the Government needs to protect “our democratic, political system” from Russia.
Speaking in the Commons, he said the country has “played a deliberate act of semi war”.
He added: Don’t we need to match that insistency with internal consistency of our own?”
Particularly, Mr Bryant noted, “tackling the dirty money in British public” so that “our democratic, political system is safe from assault by the Russians”.
Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford said, “Russia’s actions do pose an acute and direct threat to the national security not only of the UK but also its allies”.
Cost of invading would be ‘catastrophically high’
The cost of Russia invading Ukraine would be “catastrophically high” and the UK is considering an extension of “purely defensive” support for Ukraine, foreign minister Vicky Ford said.
Mr Ford told the Commons: “Any military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake.
“The Russian Government should expect significant strategic consequences. The costs of an incursion would be catastrophically high.”
She added: “Let us be very clear, we stand by Ukraine and we are considering an extension of purely defensive support to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend itself.
“Putin needs to de-escalate now and return to diplomatic channels.”
Biden’s ‘highest-stakes’ conversation to date
The New York Times said today’s meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin is Biden’s “highest-stakes” conversation since he took office.
The publication added that it “may set the course for Ukraine’s ability to remain a fully independent nation”.
Following the video call, which is due to take place around 3 pm UK time, Biden will hold another call with European leaders in the coming days.
Russia needs to know ‘what economic price is’
Latvia said the West must send a strong message to Russia to deter them from invading Ukraine.
Foreign minister Edgar Rinkēvičs said Russia “needs to know in advance what the economic price tag is.”
He added that it is unclear if President Vladimir Putin was simply trying to test the resolve of the West or if the Kremlin planned a full-scale invasion.
He said; “Maybe astrology or some other more precise science needs to be involved. But I do believe that Ukraine for Russia and President Putin is an essential part of the kind of vision of a great Russia.”
Rinkēvičs said Nato needs to “increase sites presence in the eastern flank to deter Putin.
He added: “Seeing what is happening now in and around Ukraine, we need also to review where we are with the defence of the eastern flank of NATO.
“That means more capabilities that could actually send a very strong deterrent message to Russia.”
Sanctions are ‘nonsense’
The chief executive of Russia’s top bank Sberbank said reports that new US sanctions may hit the Russian rouble’s conversion ability are “nonsense”.
US officials said sanctions, which a source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles to dollars, could be introduced.
But German Gref told reporters “This is just nonsense… This is impossible to ban, impossible to execute.”
Kremlin expects no breakthrough at Putin-Biden talks
The Kremlin said it expects no breakthrough at virtual talks between Putin and Biden, but urged people to remain calm.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow regretted what he called the White House’s predictable tendency to resort to sanctions, but said that Putin was ready to hear out Biden’s concerns and that the Kremlin leader wanted to set out his own.
He said: “There’s no need to expect any breakthroughs from this conversation. It is a working conversation at a very difficult period,” Peskov said.
“The escalation of tensions in Europe is off the scale, it is extraordinary, and this requires a personal discussion at the highest level.”
US Secretary of State speaks with Ukraine President
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted overnight that he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Mr Blinken said they spoke about “Russia’s aggression” and reiterated the US “unwavering” support.
The White House confirmed that President Biden will speak to Putin from the Situation Room via video call around 3pm UK time.
What sanctions could be imposed?
Joe Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia invade Ukraine.
A source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision have been made.
CNN reports that the US could include the extreme step of disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international payment system used by banks around the world.
Bloomberg reported that the US and European allies are weighing sanctions targeting the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
The United States could also restrict the ability of investors to buy Russian debt on the secondary market, Bloomberg added, citing people familiar with the matter.
The White House has declined to comment.
Russia accused of trying to provoke Ukraine
Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying tanks and additional sniper teams to the frontline to try to provoke return fire.
The statement said, “the enemy increased the number of sniper pairs in readiness to inflict casualties on the personnel of the Joint Forces, destroy video surveillance elements and provoke return fire”.
Biden to tell Putin he’ll face toughest sanctions
US President Joe Biden is expected to encourage diplomatic de-escalation when he speaks to Russian leader Vladimir Putin later today.
Officials said Biden will tell him that Russia will be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.
They said the sanctions, which a source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack.
World leaders hold overnight talks
As fears grow, Boris Johnson held a video call with Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The video conference looked to present a “united front” of NATO leaders.
No 10 said the leaders called on Russia to “de-escalate tensions and reaffirmed their staunch support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.
Following the call, the White House said leaders “agreed that diplomacy, especially thought the Normandy Format, is the only way forward to resolve the conflict”.
Of all the Iraqi religious scholars turned politicians, Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr is the most controversial, bold and charismatic. He comes from a family that has stood up to oppressive regimes on nationalistic grounds. At 47, he is still young and relatively inexperienced. Once an ally of Iran, he is now distancing himself from Tehran, but is also careful to underline his hostility to the US presence in the war-torn country.
At one point he led an armed militia, the Mahdi Army, to fight the Americans, only to break it up and form a political coalition of like-minded figures that is proud of its Shiite background, but not at the expense of the Iraqi national or Arab identity. Between the 2003 US invasion, which resulted in the dismantling of Baath Party rule, and the chaotic formation of an ethnosectarian political setup, Al-Sadr never fully embraced the new system, even when the Shiite politicians were firmly in control of the country.
Of all the major Shiite blocs and political parties, his was the only one brave enough to denounce the political quota system and the rampant corruption beleaguering the new Iraq. And he is among the few political figures to have called for the dissolution of the armed pro-Iran militias that were formed to stand up to Daesh, the radical Sunni revisionist movement that at one point was only a few kilometers from Baghdad.
The last decade, with its myriad seismic political and economic events, has ripened Al-Sadr’s political vision. He remains a charismatic figure, especially among Iraq’s disenfranchised Shiites, who failed to benefit from the rise of powerful leaders such as Nouri Al-Maliki and Haider Abadi.
This is perhaps why Al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance emerged as the clear winner in October’s general election at the expense of pro-Iran blocs such as Hadi Al-Amiri’s Fatah coalition — a political front for the pro-Iran militias. The phenomenal rejection by voters included Al-Maliki, Abadi, Ammar Al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi.
They all rejected the outcome of the elections, claiming nationwide fraud, and Al-Amiri and his ally Qais Al-Khazali threatened to use force. Their firebrand rhetoric may have prompted last month’s failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
The Shiite powers formed a Coordination Framework that called for a manual recount of the ballots. And when the election committee confirmed the results after such a count, they invited Al-Sadr to a meeting. None wanted to dispose of the quota system that favored them. But Al-Sadr had another objective in mind: He reiterated that he wanted to form a national majority government that will be neither eastern nor western; i.e., that will end the convenient status quo that has brought the country to its knees. He will either form such a majority government with the help of the Sunni Arabs, the Kurds and the independents who were behind the 2019 mass protests, or else sit in opposition.
He would also welcome others to join, but only on his own terms. Even then, his demand that the pro-Iran militias be dissolved stands, while he continues to promise to expose those behind the assassination attempt on Al-Kadhimi. When push comes to shove, Al-Sadr and his new-found allies — including the Arab Sunnis (Mohammed Al-Halbousi’s Taqaddum), the Kurds (Barzani branch) and the independents — do have the upper hand. His rivals, under the umbrella of the Coordination Framework, may lose the glue that keeps them together when they realize that the election results will not be overturned.
Al-Sadr is proving to be a maverick by opposing the Americans and insisting on doing away with pro-Iran militias. Timing is very important and it may be on his side. The Americans are supposed to be leaving by the end of the year as they review their military presence in the Middle East. The threat of the pro-Iran militias subjugating the political system has subsided since the assassination of Qassem Soleimani last year. It is now clear that Iran’s grip over Iraq is waning and for many reasons. The Iraqi people are fed up with Iranian meddling, the vast corruption of the ruling political class and the failure to deal with existential economic, political and environmental challenges.
Al-Sadr has praised Al-Kadhimi’s efforts to keep Iraq neutral in the US-Iran showdown. He may decide to let him stay as prime minister, even if this is anathema to his Shiite rivals. This would be a major step forward for Iraq, which is trying to revive its national identity and rejoin the Arab fold. If Al-Sadr succeeds in toppling the ethnosectarian system, it will be a historic milestone in the country’s recovery. His failure would be disastrous on all fronts, so his gambit must succeed.
Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010
President Joe Biden has failed to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Regional powers may be preparing for a major conflict.
A woman walks past a mural of the Iranian national flag in central Tehran, Iran, on Nov. 7, 2019.
Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images
The United States is going to war with Iran.
That conclusion seems unavoidable watching President Joe Biden fail to revive the Iran nuclear deal from which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew in 2018. The Iranian side has demanded the removal of sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump, as well as a guarantee that a future U.S. administration will not once again abruptly pull out of the nuclear deal, which is known as the JCPOA. While Iran has continued to abide by the minimum terms of the deal in order to preserve the possibility of bringing it back to life, Biden’s unwillingness or inability to meet its terms has left observers now warning of a “worst-case” scenario in which Iran proceeds to weaponize its nuclear program and the two countries come to a full-blown armed conflict.
It is worth reflecting on how both sides came to this point. The nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration was a means of averting war by placing Iran’s nuclear program under international monitoring in exchange for economic integration with the West. That agreement was abruptly torn up by Trump, seemingly in a fit of personal pique at President Barack Obama, with the encouragement of hawkish advisers and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In place of a diplomatic arrangement, the Trump administration waged a campaign of economic pressure, sabotage, and assassinations targeting Iranian leadership.
Those efforts did great harm to innocent Iranians as well as to U.S. diplomatic standing. They have not done what the diplomatic agreement did: actually curb Iran’s nuclear program. Iran today remains under U.S. sanctions that have severely harmed its economy and sent its people into desperation. Its nuclear program, however, has continued to advance. The Biden administration’s failure or incapacity to do the minimum of reversing Trump’s economic sanctions has likely put an end to the old agreement. Absent the 2015 nuclear deal, the only two options left on the table are the international community accepting an Iran with nuclear weapons capability or going to war to stop it.
The truly depressing thing is that even if Biden wasn’t dragging his feet, it is unclear whether the original deal was even revivable after Trump showed that the U.S. could turn against it without notice. Western companies that had expressed an interest in investing in the Iranian market when the deal was first negotiated have been scared off, likely for good. “Even if the JCPOA was restored, no Western company would dare invest a cent in Iran, no Western bank would finance any deal in Iran with the threat of the return of US sanctions in 2025. Once was enough. The Iranians know it,” former French diplomat Gérard Araud observed in a tweet.
In addition to its unwillingness to lift the Trump-era sanctions and its inability to make executive promises that bind future administrations, the Biden administration probably lacks the majority votes it would need in the U.S. Senate to ratify the deal as a treaty. That means the odds of another rug-pulling in 2025 are high if a Republican administration comes to office. Absent the ability to guarantee the not-unreasonable demand that a signed deal be adhered to, the U.S. faces the prospect of being structurally unable to carry out the type of complex diplomacy necessary to avert war or nuclear proliferation.
Regional powers are already sending strong signals that they are preparing for a major conflict over the issue.
In recent days, top-ranking Israeli military officials have visited the headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command for meetings said to be about the deteriorating situation with Iran. The Israeli defense establishment has been divided in its views on the Iranian nuclear issue, with some officials contradicting the position held by Netanyahuthat the deal is an unacceptable threat to Israeli security. But even Israeli officials who have said that Iran is not close to making a bomb have begun to signal that airstrikes are now on the table, particularly as it appears that the nuclear program may soon be freed of the oversight imposed by the original deal. In addition to discussing strikes against nuclear targets in Iran, Israeli news reports this week have claimed that officials are even pushing their U.S. counterparts to carry out strikes against Iranian targets elsewhere in the Middle East.
In the big picture, Iran is not completely free of blame for this predicament. Its decision to make Israel its primary villain in its public rhetoric despite the absence of any concrete territorial dispute between the two countries has mired it in a serious conflict that it may otherwise have avoided. But the fact remains that the 2015 nuclear deal, which Iranian diplomats at the time characterized as a first step toward broader conversations on areas of disagreement with the U.S., was being upheld on their side at the moment that Trump decided to tear it up and that the Biden administration has failed to reverse the steps that Trump took. The response to the question “What now?” has no easy or comforting answers.
The sclerotic nature of foreign policy debate means that if and when a major war with Iran comes, including airstrikes, naval conflict, and possible ground operations involving U.S. troops, most Americans will have forgotten the precipitating events that brought the two countries to this point, as well as the people responsible for destroying a diplomatic agreement intended to prevent bloodshed. After 20 years of conflict in the Middle East and Central Asia, Americans are clearly fatigued and eager to avoid new wars in the region. Despite how tired they may be of confrontation, their leaders seem bent on having one more — perhaps the biggest of all.