Earthquake activity in the New York City area

WikipediaAlthough the eastern United States is not as seismically active as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude. Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure), seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island.The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5.For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York). Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.


The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock. Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to rift apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the bedrock in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and Newark Mesozoic rift basins.Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.  The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness. The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults. Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New YorkNew Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone,which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

More Killing In Kashmir Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Indian forces kill militants in disputed Kashmir, Pakistan condemns deaths

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, India, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Indian forces have killed five militants, including a top commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) insurgent group, in stepped-up operations in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, police said on Sunday.

The militants were killed in two separate operations on Saturday night by Indian troops south of Srinagar, the main city in India-administered Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region’s police chief, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters. ad

“We had launched two separate operations on the basis of inputs about the presence of militants in these areas last night. Five militants, including JeM commander, Zahid Wani, and a Pakistani national, Kafeel, were killed,” Kumar said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the latest violence and called for international accountability for the “extra-judicial killing of five Kashmiris”. It condemned what it called India’s insinuation that a Pakistani fighter had been killed.Report ad

“The Indian occupation forces are known to kill innocent Kashmiris passing them off as ‘alleged militants’,” the ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of backing a separatist insurgency fought by Islamist militants that has simmered since the late 1980s. Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir in the west, denies that but says it offers political support to Kashmir’s fellow Muslims.

Indian police said 21 militants have been killed in January, including eight Pakistani nationals. The Pakistani ministry said 23 Kashmiris had been killed.

“In their unabated reign of terror, the Indian occupation forces have martyred at least 23 Kashmiris in fake ‘encounters’ and so-called cordon-and-search operations in the month of January alone,” the ministry said.

Kumar declined to comment on Pakistan’s statement but said Indian forces launched their operation after militants killed a police officer on Saturday outside his home in the south of Srinagar.

Last year, Indian Kashmir saw a wave of killings of civilians, with militants targeting migrant workers and members of the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in the Kashmir valley.

Indian forces in the heavily militarised region responded with a widespread crackdown. More than 189 militants were killed in Kashmir last year, police said.

The Iraqi Horn Retaliates Against Daesh

Daesh was largely defeated in Iraq in 2017, but thousands of terrorists have continued to wage attacks, frequently hitting security forces and the military.
Daesh was largely defeated in Iraq in 2017, but thousands of terrorists have continued to wage attacks, frequently hitting security forces and the military. (AP)

Iraq’s retaliatory air strikes kill suspected Daesh terrorists

The operation on suspected Daesh militants came after the boldest attacks by the terrorists in recent weeks that killed a guard and 11 Iraqi soldiers earlier this month

Iraqi air strikes have killed nine suspected Daesh terrorists, including four Lebanese, in retaliation for an earlier Daesh attack on Iraqi army barracks.

Yehia Rasool, the spokesperson for Iraq’s commander in chief, said on Sunday that the joint military operations room and the air force identified the cell behind the attack as its members hid in Al Azim, north of Baghdad.

Earlier this month, Daesh militants in Iraq broke into a barracks in the mountainous Al Azim district outside the town of Baqouba on Jan 21, killed a guard, and shot dead 11 soldiers as they slept. 

It was one of the boldest attacks by the terrorists in recent weeks and came amid an uptick in violence that stoked fears the group has been re-energised.

Three air strikes that were launched killed the nine terrorists, Rasool said.

Four Lebanese among the dead

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that four among the killed were Lebanese, natives of the northern town of Tripoli.

Lebanon’s Al Jadeed TV gave a higher death toll, saying that five Lebanese were killed in Iraq. 

Also on Sunday, Iraqi anti-terrorism units carried out an inspection campaign in seven prisons in Iraq holding Daesh members.

The campaign comes after a brazen prison attack Daesh terrorists carried out in northeastern Syria that lasted for over a week and in which an unknown numb

U.S. ‘Stress Tests’ for Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Russian Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine
Soldiers of the Russian Navy stand on the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine Project 955A Borei-A ‘Knyaz Vladimirt’ as they take part in the Navy Day parade, celebrating the 325th anniversary of the Russian Navy, in St.Petersburg on July 25, 2021. Photo by ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

As Russia-Ukraine Tensions Rise, U.S. ‘Stress Tests’ New Nuclear War Plan

By William M. Arkin AND  Marc Ambinder On 1/29/22 at 8:51 PM EST

As Russian threats to Ukraine continue and persist, and as the Biden administration contemplates American responses, nuclear weapons lurk in the background. The nuclear option is postured to deter aggression, even in Europe, a fact made clear by a large-scale “Global Lightning” military exercise last year, which was based upon a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic states, a scenario that ultimately escalated to the use of nuclear weapons.

This year—this week—Global Lightning is back. The exercise is one of a handful of regular war games held by the U.S. Strategic Command, the American nuclear command in Omaha, Nebraska. No one planned for the five-day exercise to come up in the calendar at this inopportune time, and this year the scenario involves China. Still, behind the scenes, here’s what Russia sees (even if we see nothing): decision-makers focused on the latest plan, nuclear command and control circuits opened and tested, new innovations and capabilities incorporated and practiced.

While nuclear war fighting is being practiced, there’s also a new nuclear war plan that is being put through its paces.

Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, sends along a copy of the cover page for the latest iteration of the war plan, updated to take into consideration the major shift underway in the Pentagon to refocus from the war on terror to “great power competition.” Kristensen’s document—released to FAS under the Freedom of Information Act – confirms that the newest war plan “STRATCOM CONPLAN 0810-12, ‘Strategic Deterrence and Force Deployment’, Change 1, was issued on April 30, 2019.

Very little is known about the details of the new war plan, nor what specifically Global Lightning practices this year. Kristensen says that the exercise: “includes practicing operations during a trans-/post-attack nuclear environment, including reconstitution, redirection and targeting of STRATCOM forces.” In English, that means not just the initial use of nuclear weapons but the unfortunate assumption of repeated use (“trans attack”) and then reconstitution of capabilities (“post attack”) to use surviving weapons again. It’s good old fashioned nuclear warfighting, just updated for new capabilities which in theory give the United States more means to survive.

A STRATCOM spokesperson says this: “As a command post exercise, GLOBAL LIGHTNING focuses primarily on the headquarters processes and procedures necessary to plan and respond to a military crisis. There is no associated field training portion of Global Lightning. USSTRATCOM forces, however, remain on watch 24/7 to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies.”

Of course, this paints a somewhat antiseptic picture of what is actually going on, and it glosses over the main innovation in the nuclear war plan over the past two decades: The incorporation of non-nuclear capabilities into the nuclear war plan that allows contingency planners to assume enough capabilities to survive a Russia first strike, to retaliate, to absorb more attacks, retaliate again, and keep on doing the same again and again (the country miraculously okay with all of this). It’s a capability that’s more provocative than the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) trope of the past, and one that receives shocking little attention.

Of the major STRATCOM exercises, Global Lightning is the most heavily focused on the integrated nuclear command, control and communications enterprise. This is the essence of the pretension of survival against a first strike and continued nuclear warfighting. Here the focus is on integrating new command facilities like STRATCOM’s own Command and Control Facility (C2F), with other command posts operated by other U.S. military commands and even allied countries worldwide. Airborne command posts like the E4-Bs and E6-Bs, those that will in theory be able to take over if the fixed ones are destroyed, as well as ground mobile command posts (those that move around to avoid nuclear targeting), are the next level of “survivable” American nuclear buttons on the move.

Global Lightning practices how a new generation of “protected communications” fit in to make these plans work. These include the Family of Beyond the Line of Sight terminals (FAB-T), which consists of 37 ground stations and nearly 50 terminals aboard nuclear capable aircraft, airborne command posts, including Air Force One, and post-strike reconnaissance assets (e.g., the U-2) The Air Force has been trying to get FAB-T operational for a decade; it allows the president (or whoever is acting president) to communicate directly with nuclear forces and, importantly, to hear back from those platforms.

Stress testing the FAB-T capability is one of many Global Lightning objectives, because every new communication platform has to operate seamlessly with others. Some of these new pathways and more survivable communications capabilities include the Army’s SMART-T (Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal) a new Navy very low frequency (VLF) radio, and the upgrade to the Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program (MMPU). Just last year, the Air Force also began to install what it calls another, redundant, survivable communication system, the Common Very Low Frequency Receiver, for nuclear operations on B-2 “Spirit” bombers.

Aside from equipment tests, role players during Global Lightning will convene nuclear emergency conference calls from various command posts using the Presidential and National Voice Conferencing system. The PNVC is supposed to work with a bunch of different types of military communication pathways to provide “near toll quality voice conferencing capability for the President, Secretary of Defense, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior national/military leaders.”

The nuclear war plan is hardly just about nuclear weapons anymore. The actual warfighting elements incorporate so many other lethal capabilities that are not nuclear: missile defenses, secret weapons (such as directed energy weapons), long-range conventional weapons, electronic warfare, cyber offense, space attack, even special operations. For more than a decade STRATCOM has been working to incorporate all of these capabilities, both the kinetic and non-kinetic attack pieces, into one overarching plan.

In this state, non-nuclear capabilities enhance an offensive, hitting and disabling targets, but also non-nuclear capabilities are used to nullify and impede Russian (or Chinese) retaliation (or first strike) through interfering with command and control and the navigation (position, navigation and timing (PNT) is the buzzword) and basic functioning of the weapons systems.

Most of these capabilities—including U.S. capabilities that protect against such Russian attacks—exist in Special Access Programs (SAPs), highly controlled compartments that safeguard capabilities beyond “normal” Top Secret. SAPs are created to control the number of people privy to operational, intelligence, or acquisition programs. The entire STRATCOM nuclear command and control (NC2) program is a SAP (designated NC2/ESI, for extremely sensitive information). This covers the secrets of redundancy and the methods and procedures used to approve the launch of nuclear weapons. “Special Technical Operations” is another broad category of SAPs, those related to classified space-related capabilities. Focal Point is another SAP relating to special operations and integration of CIA programs. Another broad SAP is associated with the stealth techniques relating to the B-2 bomber and follow-on aircraft.

But beyond that, there are dozens of programs relating to the secret augmentations and adjuncts to the nuclear war plan: compartmented strategies and plans, intelligence capabilities, information and cyber operations, deception, “special programs.” There are over two dozen specific STRATCOM SAPs being worked on and secured by the same number of defense contractors:

  • Alutiiq;
  • American Systems;
  • Arsiem Corporation;
  • BAE Systems;
  • Booz Allen Hamilton;
  • Celestar;
  • Constellation West;
  • Infinity Systems Engineering;
  • McCallie Associates;
  • MELE Associates;
  • Millennium/Axient;
  • Modern Technology Solutions, Inc.;
  • Peraton;
  • Red River Technology;
  • S4, Inc.;
  • SAIC;
  • Serrrano IT Services;
  • Solutions Through Innovative Technologies, Inc.;
  • Spiral Solutions & Technologies, Inc.;
  • Syntelligent Analytic Solutions;
  • Systems Planning and Analysis; and
  • Venatore

The question here is strategic stability—and whether these various new programs undermine strategic stability. This must at least be taken into consideration given the measures that the Biden administration has already taken vis a vis Ukraine or are inherent to the American arsenal: nuclear deterrence, nuclear armed fighter planes already in Europe, increased naval presence, related and coinciding military exercises, troops “activated” and “rushing” to the Ukrainian border. They all represent some American tripwire. Yet two questions should be asked: Are all of these threats of American action (“deterrent moves” in official parlance) convincing enough to dissuade further Russian military moves? And, at what point do they become too convincing, crossing the line between deterrence and threat? And how do these secret programs, some of which Russia knows about, figure in to their response? This is the Security Dilemma in the age of SAPs.

Here’s a truism. There’s no ideal time for the U.S. Strategic Command to conduct a nuclear global strategic command post exercise. You’d think that with war in the offing in Europe, such things might be postponed. But then you could make a case that at virtually every point in our recent history, exercising nuclear war capabilities might send the wrong signal.

“Talk about timing,” Kristensen says. “It reminds me of the nuclear test [the U.S. conducted] in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis.” There is, of course, an entire body of literature devoted to nuclear signaling, nuclear command post exercises, the history of near-misses and near hits.

So we have a nuclear war plan and then a set of “compartmented” plans (as if Top Secret isn’t secret enough), all creating the impression of the never ending nuclear war, one that is practiced right under our noses with practically no comment or public acknowledgement or debate.

When nuclear weapons were the only component of the nuclear war plan, the firebreak was huge. There was one event to be prevented and deterred. One plan. One nuclear capability. Many of these questions regarding strategic stability didn’t need answering. But today, when there are a variety of SAPs hiding ambiguous and unknown capabilities, we also have a situation where many “conventional” moves (including cyber and space move taking place out of sight) can increasingly be interpreted as precursors to a larger strategic attack. And yet because of secrecy, we can not even assess the impact, leaving it to the Pentagon and STRATCOM to perfectly signal in a crisis, and to the Kremlin to perfectly understand public and secret moves. It’s too much to ask, which is why we need to know what these capabilities are.

This story is co-published with The Secrets Machine.

Israeli Navy Attacks Palestinian Fishing Boats Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli Navy Attacks Palestinian Fishing Boats In Gaza

Israeli navy ships attacked, Saturday, several Palestinian fishing boats with live ammunition off the shore of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Media sources said the navy fired live ammunition at the boats, sailing less than six nautical miles from the shore near Rafah.

The attack did not lead to casualties but forced the Palestinians to leave to the shore in fear of additional Israeli escalation.

On Friday morning, Israeli soldiers fired many gas bombs at Palestinian farmers and bird hunters east of Khuza’a town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, the soldiers abducted two Palestinian farmers east of Khan Younis.

The army frequently attacks farmers, shepherds, workers, and fishermen across the eastern parts of the coastal region and in Palestinian territorial waters, leading to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to preventing the Palestinians from tending to their lands and from fishing to provide for their families.

In March of 2021, the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza said Israeli mines were responsible for an explosion that led to the death of three fishermen.

In related news, the soldiers shot a young Palestinian man in Deir Jarir village, east of Ramallah, in the central part of the occupied West Bank.

Time is Running Out on the Obama Deal

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Aragchi, attends a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, September 1, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Time running out to decide whether Iran can make a deal, Western diplomats say

Nearly 10 months after the negotiations started – with a five-month break imposed by Iran – the hardest issues remain, they say.

Negotiations for the US and Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal are nearing the point where a decision must be made or that agreement will no longer be salvageable, European diplomats said on Friday, as the negotiating teams returned to their capitals for consultations.

“January has been the most intensive period of these talks to date,” negotiators from the US State Department and the E3 – France, Britain and Germany – said in a statement at the end of the eighth round of talks in Vienna. “Everyone knows we are reaching the final stage, which requires political decisions.”

Brett McGurk, the White House’s national security council Middle East coordinator, said on Thursday that “we’re in the ballpark of a possible deal… [but] there’s also a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon.”

Western diplomats have said that Iran is moving too slowly in the talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action while it enriches and stockpiles uranium, and that weeks, not months, remain until the restrictions of that deal will have been irreversibly hollowed out.

Nearly 10 months after the negotiations started – with a five-month break imposed by Iran – the hardest issues remain, they say.

Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, November 6, 2016. (credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)

Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, November 6, 2016. (credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)

A French presidential official told reporters the main sticking points included the guarantees Iran is seeking to ensure that there is no second US withdrawal from the deal.

“The negotiation today remains difficult because the question of guarantees and the modalities to put Iran’s nuclear program back under control need to be clarified, but there are a few indications that the negotiation can conclude [positively],” the official said.

Iran has demanded that the US promise that its next president will not withdraw from the JCPOA, which is supposed to last until the end of 2030. However, US law does not allow a current president to dictate foreign policy for the next one, especially since the nuclear deal is not a treaty ratified by Congress.

One of the other issues in the negotiations is sequencing, meaning the order in which sanctions are lifted and nuclear restrictions are implemented, through measures like the shipping of excess enriched uranium abroad. Iran sees the resumption of economic activities, after the announcement that sanctions are lifted, as verification of their removal and part of the deal.

Also slowing down the talks is Iran’s refusal to negotiate directly with the US, requiring the EU, E3, Russia and China to go back and forth between the Iranian and American delegations.

“Participants will go back to capitals for consultations and instructions… [but] political decisions are needed now,” the Vienna talks’ coordinator, Enrique Mora of the European Union, tweeted.

A separate EU statement said talks would resume next week.

The JCPOA restricted Iran’s nuclear program, while gradually lifting sanctions. The US left the deal in 2018 and added more sanctions to pressure the regime in Tehran, which had continued its proxy warfare throughout the Middle East in the interim. Iran has since enriched uranium to 60%, far beyond the JCPOA’s limitations, within reach of 90%-enriched weapons-grade uranium.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a call with his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata on Wednesday that “the United States is preparing alternative options, in coordination with its partners, should diplomacy fail.”

How much any political decisions will accelerate the talks remains to be seen. Russia’s top envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, who is often the most optimistic delegate, tweeted: “My instinct tells me that agreement will be reached soon after mid-February.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to release its next report on Iran’s nuclear program in mid-February, regarding decades-old nuclear material found at four sites in Iran, for which the regime has not provided a convincing explanation.

The next IAEA board meeting is scheduled for March 7. Iran has repeatedly used JCPOA negotiations as leverage to avoid censure by the agency’s board for obstructing inspections and violating the nuclear agreement.

US air strikes kill ISIS

Iraq air strikes kill nine suspects in deadly IS attack

Iraqi air strikes on Saturday killed nine suspected “terrorists” implicated in a deadly Islamic State group attack on an army base earlier this month, the military said.

The January 21 attack, which killed 11 soldiers in Hawi al-Azim in the eastern province of Diyala, was the deadliest claimed by the jihadists in Iraq this year. 

In a statement released late Saturday, the military said it had “identified the exact whereabouts in Hawi al-Azim of the terrorist group which perpetrated this criminal act”.

Three precision strikes by Iraqi F-16s have so far killed nine terrorist elements,” the statement said, adding that the mission was still underway.

IS overran large swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014, declaring a new “caliphate” for Muslims, before Baghdad declared victory in late 2017 after a grinding campaign.

But a low-level insurgency by the jihadists has persisted, flaring up particularly in rural areas north of Baghdad around the city of Kirkuk, and in the eastern provinces of Diyala and Salaheddin.

The base attack coincided with a brazen prison break attempt over the border in Syria after that has triggered days of clashes between IS fighters and Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition troops and aircraft.

The fighting in and around Ghwayran prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh has killed at least 270 people, including around 189 jihadists, 74 Kurdish-led fighters and seven civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.