Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.
22 December 2021
US negotiator Rob Malley, in an interview with CNN, warned of a “period of escalating crisis” if diplomacy failed to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
There are only “some weeks” left to revive the nuclear deal with Iran if it continues its nuclear activities at the current pace, US negotiator Rob Malley said Tuesday.
Malley, in an interview with CNN, warned of a “period of escalating crisis” if diplomacy failed to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Negotiations restarted in November, after a five-month hiatus, to try to restore the deal with Iran, which the United States withdrew from under former president Donald Trump in 2018.
The indirect talks have been suspended but Malley said he hoped they would resume “relatively soon.”
Iran claims it only wants to develop a civilian nuclear capability but Western powers say its stockpile of enriched uranium goes well beyond that and could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.
Too late to revive JCPOA?
Washington has warned recently that it may soon be too late to revive the JCPOA.
“It really depends on the pace of their nuclear process,” said Malley, the US special envoy for Iran. “If they halt the nuclear advances, we have more time.
“If they continue at their current pace, we have some weeks left but not much more than that, at which point the conclusion will be there’s no deal to be revived,” he said.
“At some point in a not-so-distant future we will have to conclude the JCPOA is no more and we would have to negotiate a wholly different deal and we would go through a period of an escalating crisis,” he added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that he was not going to set a deadline for the talks.
“I’m not going to put a time limit on it,” Blinken told reporters, but the remaining runway for a deal is “getting very, very, very short.”
“We continue to have a strong interest in seeing if we can put the nuclear program back into the box that it was in,” he said. “But if we can’t do that, because Iran will not engage in good faith, then we are actively looking at alternatives and options.”
The 2015 agreement ensured sanctions relief for Iran in return for tight curbs on its nuclear program, which was put under extensive UN monitoring.
Trump went on to re-introduce sanctions, prompting Tehran to start disregarding the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities in 2019.
Recent rounds of talks have stumbled on which sanctions Washington is prepared to lift, and guarantees demanded by Iran to protect against the prospect of a future US withdrawal.
JPost One-on-One Zoomcast , Episode 47: Anna Ahronheim with Dr. Raz Zimmt, Iran expert, Institute for National Security Studies
“It’s a matter of delaying the program, not to destroy it but to delay it as long as possible,” said Dr. Raz Zimmt, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies specializing in Iran.
The Jerusalem Post spoke with Zimmt as both the Americans and European diplomats have warned that negotiations around Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna are “rapidly reaching the end of the road.”
And with Israel pessimistic about any outcome from the nuclear talks, alongside the diplomatic campaign, Israel’s defense establishment is gearing up for a worst-case scenario including a military option against the Islamic Republic.
“When we speak of a military option, there are different issues that need to be taken into consideration,” Zimmt said. “Can Israel carry it out alone? In my view at this stage, I don’t think there is an Israeli option that can be carried out tomorrow morning.”
Along with needing to take into consideration the political-strategic picture and whether or not the Americans will greenlight the strike or forbid Israel from carrying it out,
“How long will the option be effective? Will an Israeli military strike delay Iran’s nuclear program by between 1-2yrs, that’s another question because, unlike Syria and Iraq where both had nuclear programs attacked by Israel, the nuclear program in Iran is totally different. They have the knowledge and technology,” Zimmt said, adding that “even if Israel succeeds in attacking nuclear facilities it is only a matter of time before they are able to rehabilitate their capabilities.”
While Iran has other strategic capabilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic missiles, “none of them pose any possible existential threat to the State of Israel” like its nuclear program, Zimmt said.
Along with the considerations Israel needs to take into account should it decide to carry out a strike, it must be aware of the retaliation that will likely be carried out by Hezbollah and other proxies.
“The number one threat following an Israeli attack will be a response by Hezbollah and their missile arsenal,” Zimmt warned.
“If Israel attacks and Iran asks Hezbollah to retaliate, it is very unlikely that they will say no.”
Iraq’s October elections have led to a shift in the country’s power balance, seeking to sway the country’s militant networks. Both Muqtada al-Sadr and Akram al-Kaabi are emerging as two key figures seeking to shape the nation’s security contours.
Sadr, who leads Saraya al-Salam, and Kaabi, who heads Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba – both part of the Popular Mobilisation Forces(PMF) – represent two radically different paramilitary groups in terms of strategy and organisational capacity.
The elections might have led to a rare, and fragile, political convergence between these two forces. Yet, while their common background as students of the late cleric Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr could foster better communication between them, and ease tensions, their simultaneous rise could foment competition over claims to the legacy of their mentor.
While the paramilitary forces of Sadr and Kaabi clearly diverge in terms of strategic vision … they partially converge when it comes to short-term domestic politics
Since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimitook office in May 2020, he has been in an alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr and his sizeable paramilitaries. Sadr’s followers counterbalance the Iran-allied paramilitaries (or the resistance factions), who Kadhimi would like to see relegated to a background role in the PMF. These dynamics have fuelled tensions between Sadr’s forces and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), led by Qais al-Khazali, Sadr’s arch rival who splintered from his older group, the Mahdi army.
Sadr emerged as the biggest winner among Iraq’s Shia political leaders in the October elections, overshadowing Iran-backed parties, who lost significant seats compared with the 2018 vote. After a drone attack targeted Kadhimi’s residence in November, Sadr urged his rivals in Iraq’s resistance factions to disarm– a bold call that was most likely only possible thanks to his increasing political power.
Sadr reportedly followed this up by ordering Saraya al-Salam to cease communicating with the PMF’s chief of staff, who is also a senior Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) commander.
On the other side of the spectrum, Kaabi, who represents a minority of Sadrists, is hostile to Kadhimi, although he does not engage in explicit sabre-rattling against the prime minister, as other rivals have.
What differentiates Kaabi from other resistance leaders is that he attempts to position himself outside of factional divides. After Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force in Iran, and PMF deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated in January 2020 in Baghdad by American forces, Kaabi brought together a group of Iraqi militant leaders to discuss taking action against the US. Sadr was among the attendees.
Unlike AAH, Kaabi does not position his small group in direct confrontation with Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam, which has distanced itself from Tehran. But Kaabi could be considered the factional figure in Iraq who is closest to Iran’s Office of the Supreme Leader and the elite Quds Force.
While AAH, KH and other groups were neck-deep in the October elections, Kaabi’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba took a hands-offapproach, keeping the group relatively isolated from the post-election political discord. This has likely left Kaabi’s forces with more capacity to plan and mobilise against foreign targets. While their peers were mobilising against Kadhimi over allegations of vote rigging, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was instead focused on issuing threats against the Turkish military deployed in Iraq’s north.
In addition, in an unusual televised appearance in December, Kaabi could be seen amid the flags of various surrogate groupsthat have emerged over recent months as offshoots of resistance factions to handle anti-US armed action. The significance of Kaabi linking those surrogates to his group lies in the fact that larger groups such as KH, a top-tier ally of Iran, and AAH never disclosed their relation with the groups that claimed credit for the deadly attacks on US-led forces in Iraq.
On the other hand, Kaabi implicitly criticised dragging the resistance factions into the ongoing political discord following Iraq’s elections, noting that it could harm their collective militant capacity to mobilise against the US. This was viewed as a response to Sadr’s call to disarm these groups.
While the paramilitary forces of Sadr and Kaabi clearly diverge in terms of strategic vision – with the first positioning itself as a local movement, and the second as a transnational network – they partially converge when it comes to short-term domestic politics, in part owing to Iran’s balancing act in Iraq.
Iraq elections: What Muqtada al-Sadr might do nextRead More »
Sadr has an obvious interest in keeping Kadhimi in power. At the same time, Kaabi appears to be indirectly adhering to Iran’s pragmatic interest in keeping Kadhimi in power for the time being. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba is likely to continue to toe this line if Iran brokers a second term in office for Kadhimi.
Iran’s other paramilitary allies, mainly KH and AAH, who vehemently oppose Kadhimi, diverged with Tehran on this matter. Kaabi’s careful posture still makes him a point of intersection between his Iran-backed allies and Sadr, a position Iran favours.
Kaabi’s challenge is that if he is able to enlarge his organisation and play a greater role in shaping anti-US actions in Iraq, or even in Syria, where those actions are thought to be currently spearheaded by KH, this would likely affect his ability to remain insulated from factional discord. Kaabi’s ability to remain relatively apolitical stems from his group’s small size; the more it expands, the more the imperatives for political engagement with the Iraqi government will grow – therefore likely repeating KH’s political trajectory.
Although Sadr’s relations with the Iran-backed factions and the political parties representing them grew tense following his victory in the election, he will still have to work with them under the “Shia house“, an umbrella group that urges shia unity despite political differences, to pick the next prime minister.
And while Kaabi is among the few leaders who continued to seek constructive relations with Sadr, if the two men continue to rise in parallel, this may further test the resolve of Iraq’s increasingly fragile and polarised “Shia house”.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
By Aaron BoxermanToday, 8:03 pm
The Hamas terror group threatens retaliation after a Palestinian prisoner stabbed an Israeli guard with a small improvised weapon, sparking what Palestinians said was a crackdown.
Yousef al-Mabhouh, a Palestinian security prisoner from Gaza, stabbed an Israeli prison guard last night, lightly wounding him. In response, Israeli prison authorities shut down the compound and put several prisoners into solitary confinement, according to Palestinian media.
“We will not allow the battle to stay confined to the jails,” says Hamas official Zaher Jabareen in an interview with Palestine Today TV. “We will not leave our prisoners to fend for themselves.”
Bennett offers Israeli assistance to Kentucky amid devastating tornadoes
Hamas says it has passed a message to Israel through Egypt and other mediators between the two sides warning Israel “against continuing to aggress against prisoners inside [Israeli] jails.”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have occasionally threatened to attack Israel over the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. But those threats have rarely come to pass, with the problem generally getting resolved in one way or another.
DEC 23, 2021
Israeli soldiers invaded and ransacked, on Thursday at dawn, many homes, and abducted fourteen Palestinians, including siblings, in addition to shooting two, in several parts of the occupied West Bank.
In Nablus, in northern West Bank, the soldiers searched homes in Burqa village, northwest of the city, before abducting two Palestinians, identified as Haitham, 23, and his brother Ahmad Yousef Abu al-Leil, 30.
The soldiers also invaded Asira ash-Shamaliya town, north of Nablus, before abducting two siblings identified as Monadel Mohammad and Mofadda Sa’ada.
In Tulkarem, in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mahmoud Motea’ Salit while crossing the Ennab military roadblock, east of the city.
In Jenin, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded and searched many homes of the Silat al-Harithiya town, northwest of the city, before abducting Mohammad Mahdi Abu al-Kheir, Mohammad Aahed Abu al-Kheir, and Fuad Abdul-Rahman Jaradat.Video Player00:0000:24
The soldiers also isolated Burqa village, north of Jenin, after placing sandhills at its entrance, preventing the Palestinians from entering or leaving it.
Furthermore, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Nour Bani Odah from his home in Tammoun town, south of Tubas in northeastern West Bank.
In Salfit, in the central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mo’men Mohammad Mer’ey, 26, Bilal Ali ‘Aasi, 26, and Ali Mahmoud ‘Aasi, 24.
In addition, the soldiers invaded the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, and abducted two young men, identified as Mohammad Elias Shahin and Emad Hussein Shahin, from their homes, and took them to the nearby Etzion military base.
The invasion led to protests before Israeli sharpshooters occupied the rooftop of Ebda’ Cultural Center and shot a young man with live rounds in both of his legs.
The UN tacitly calls for a proportional IDF response to Palestinian violence.
Increased West Bank violence between Israelis and Palestinians could spark another Gaza war, UN Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Tor Wennesland warned on Tuesday.
“If left unchecked, I am concerned that not only may the situation in the West Bank further deteriorate, but these dynamics could also impact the security situation in Gaza and undermine the cessation of hostilities that has held since May 2021,” Wennesland told the United Nations Security Council during his monthly briefing to the 15-member body.
Israeli and Palestinians could be facing “another destructive and bloody round of violence,” Wennesland said as he addressed the New York meeting virtually from Jerusalem.
“We must act now to prevent that from happening,” he added.
He provided data on the violence that occurred between September 29 and December of this year that included all the Palestinian territories.
Israeli settlers clash with Palestinians after throwing stones at houses on the edge of the Palestinian village of Burin, November 6, 2021 (credit: YESH DIN)During that time, he said, 12 Palestinians, including one woman and four children, were killed by Israeli security forces and 306 were injured “during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, and other incidents” across the Palestinian territories.
Separately in that same period, 39 Palestinians were “injured by Israeli settlers or other [Israeli] civilians, who also perpetrated 121 attacks resulting in damage to Palestinian property,” Wennesland said.
He also provided data on Palestinian violence against Israelis in that same period.
“Two Israeli civilians were killed and 39 Israelis – 30 civilians, including two women and two children, and nine members of the Israeli security forces – were injured by Palestinians in clashes, shooting, stabbing and ramming attacks, as well as incidents involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails and other incidents. Palestinians perpetrated 105 attacks resulting in damage to Israeli property,” Wennesland said.
After addressing the monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other envoys also spoke out about their concerns regarding the increased violence.
The Biden administration tacitly called on Israel to respond proportionally and equitably to Palestinian violence against Israelis in the West Bank, when US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills addressed the UNSC.
“We urge the authorities to condemn acts of violence and also to respond to attacks in a proportionate and reasonable manner that seeks to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,” Mills said.
“Such episodes risk precipitating an even greater escalation of violence,” he added.
He spoke in the aftermath of tense month in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in which Palestinian terrorists killed Yehuda Dimentman, 25, in the West Bank last week and stabbed an Israeli man in Jerusalem, moderately wounding him.
In the latter incident, Border Police immediately shot and killed the assailant.
Mills did not name Israel when calling for a proportional response, but it is a phrase that is solely used against the Jewish state by its critics.
He also seemed to be criticizing Israel for not doing enough to halt nationalistic crimes against innocent Palestinians, including by settlers when he issued this statement at the UNSC: “We also call on authorities to hold those responsible for violence fully accountable for their actions. All perpetrators should face equal justice under the law.”
He did not specifically condemn Dimentman’s killing, although State Department spokesman Ned Price had done so immediately after the attack.
The US is “deeply concerned about rising tensions in the West Bank and in and around Jerusalem, especially violence perpetrated against ordinary civilians attempting to go about their lives as best they can,” Mills said.
“We call on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from any actions that add to the already tense situation,” he added.
In describing acts that increase tensions, he took issue with steps that Israel takes, such as demolitions of illegal West Bank Palestinian homes and settlement expansion. Mills also listed issues typically attributed to the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, such as incitement to violence and the PA policy of providing monthly financial stipends to “individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”Israeli security forces