Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake: Revelation 6

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Antichrist Confronted with Iran’s Opposition to ‘Tripartite Alliance’

Iraq’s Sadr Confronted with Iran’s Opposition to ‘Tripartite Alliance’

Friday, 18 February, 2022 – 07:00

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a statement in which he backed early elections overseen by the United Nations, in an extremely rare press conference outside his home in Iraq’s city Najaf, on February 10, 2021. (Getty Images)

Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is carefully wading through the Iraqi political ring against his rivals in the pro-Iran Coordination Framework.

Iraq has witnessed a turbulent past two weeks with former minister Hoshyar Zebari being barred from running for president and the Supreme Court’s surprise ruling on the Kurdistan Region’s oil policy.

The ruling by the court on Tuesday cast doubt on the legal foundations of the independent oil policy of Iraq’s Kurdish-run region and threatened to drive a political wedge between the two governments. The Supreme Court struck down the legal justifications for the semi-autonomous region’s oil policy, effectively calling into question the future of the region’s oil contracts, exports and revenues.

Amid these two developments, it appeared as though Sadr has been luring his rivals into revealing their cards as they grapple with the fallout of these rulings, their impact on the country and the formation of the new government.

However, the current tussle in Iraq goes beyond these rulings and the formation of a government, but extends to the very heart of the political process that has been in place since 2003.

The Coordination Framework is meanwhile, trying to exploit the rulings, warning Sadr against forming a government that excludes former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki or of joining the opposition.

Over the past two days, members of the Framework have mulled what the coming weeks will bring. They believe the rulings have dealt a blow to Sadr, who has been seeking the formation of a “national majority” government. The Framework has been opposed to this and believes the country cannot support the fallout from such a move.

Sadr, on the other hand, has been maneuvering to come out of the crisis with the least losses compared to his rivals. The fact that the judiciary has become involved in politics brings in a new factor into the equation, forcing the political powers to realize that they are being forced to form a new political system, even if it comes at a heavy price.

The rivals are now vying to come out on top during this critical time, with Sadr likely to emerge in the driving seat because he has the practical tools to set a new course alongside his Kurdish and Sunni allies.

This tripartite alliance is still reeling from the shock of the rulings and there has been speculation that Sadr may abandon his Kurdish ally, Masoud Barzani. However, indications from Najaf have pointed otherwise. Sadr appears committed to the alliance and the partnership that should establish a clear path in resolving disputes, even those on critical issues, such as oil, gas and the budget.

Barzani is facing a complicated situation with the barring of Zebari’s nomination and the Supreme Court ruling. He is caught between calls from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to “prove himself” and between his banking on his alliance with Sadr. At the heart of his dilemma are his priorities, which Sadr is attempting to rearrange.

There are prices Erbil has to pay even with the tripartite alliance. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was hoping that the alliance with Sadr for the sake of forming the new government would have come at a less painful price.

The price paid by the Kurds will ultimately force the Sunnis, the third party in the alliance, to worry that they will be dealt the next blow.

Nuclear Submarines for the Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Nuclear Submarines for Our Pacific Allies: When to Say Yes

By Henry Sokolski

February 17, 2022

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File

On March 9th, South Korea will elect a new president. One of the first things the new president will have to determine is whether or not to get Washington to support South Korea’s development and fueling of a nuclear submarine fleet. The Progressive candidate, Lee Jae-myung, has publicly vowed to press the United States to cut a submarine technology transfer deal for South Korea similar to what Washington struck with Australia. In a recent interview, Mr. Lee noted, “It is absolutely necessary for us to have those subs.”

But is it? Mr. Lee’s key opponent, Yoon Suk-yeol, says no. He favors investing in military space and airborne surveillance systems instead. In fact, if South Korea is serious about neutralizing the naval threats it faces, it would do far better with a sound mix of advanced non-nuclear anti-submarine and anti-surface systems than with nuclear submarines.

A detailed study, which The Naval War College Review just published, spells out why. Commissioned by my center and authored by James Campbell Jr., of Naval Sea System Command, “Seoul’s Misguided Desire for Nuclear Submarines details how poorly nuclear submarines would perform in the relatively closed East China, Yellow, and East Seas, which border Korea. His conclusion: The best way to track and contain North Korean naval threats and help the United States and Japan monitor the First Island Chain (the islands connecting Russia, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines) is not with nuclear submarines. Nuclear submarines are vastly more expensive and far less effective than a proper mix of advanced non-nuclear naval systems for these particular missions.

Such systems include upgrading South Korea’s air-independent propulsion submarines, anti-submarine aircraft, and naval surface combatants; upgrading, sharing, and analyzing acoustic and non-acoustic anti-submarine sensor information with Washington and Seoul; and investing in new anti-submarine technologies. The latter include airborne and underwater drones, wave runners, artificial intelligence-enhanced anti-submarine systems and the like.

As for South Korea using nuclear submarines to launch conventional missile “second strikes” — yet another argument some South Korean naval advocates make for “going nuclear” — using these boats for this mission compares poorly against using air and mobile ground-launched missile systems. These are far more survivable, can fire many more rounds, and cost far less per flight. Finally, if Seoul is eager to secure a blue-water navy, then developing advanced surface combatants, including small aircraft carriers, is more cost effective and avoids compounding the growing challenge of identifying nuclear submarine friends and foes in the open Western Pacific. 

Sensible for Seoul, this set of recommendation is also sound for Tokyo. From bases in Japan, super-quiet, advanced conventional submarines and other select non-nuclear systems can monitor and contain Chinese and North Korean naval threats within the First Island Chain far better than nuclear submarines. 

What, then, about Australia? Located thousands of miles from China’s coast, Canberra requires naval platforms that can quickly travel significant distances and stay on station for extended periods. For this purpose, nuclear submarines make sense. In short, it’s different.

Why belabor these points? First, if Washington wants Seoul and Tokyo to make military investments that are leveraged to deter North Korea and China, preventing South Korea and Japan from wasting billions of dollars on nuclear submarine cooperation is essential. This, in turn, requires making a no-nonsense distinction between Australia’s naval requirements and those of Seoul and Tokyo.

Second, green lighting South Korea on nuclear submarines risks spreading the bomb. Nuclear submarines require enriched uranium fuel. Seoul, which attempted to build nuclear weapons in the 1970s, has been asking Washington to allow it to enrich U.S. now for nearly a decade. So far, Washington has said no. Why? Even if Seoul promised to enrich uranium ever so slightly, it could flip any enrichment plant it ran to make weapons-grade uranium in a matter of days. Bottom line: If Seoul pursued its own nuclear naval program, it would alarm Japan (a historical antagonist that also has pondered going nuclear) and disrupt alliance relations with Washington, Seoul’s nuclear guarantor. 

What’s to be done? It would help if Seoul weren’t the only one being asked to restrain its nuclear aspirations. In this regard, my center has proposed having Australia commit to a moratorium on enriching uranium tied to its 30-year AUKUS nuclear submarine deal. It also has recommended that the United States and Japan join South Korea in suspending their commercialization of fast reactors and the recycling of nuclear weapons explosive plutonium. This would help spotlight similar militarily worrisome plutonium production-related activities in China.

Finally, Washington should work with Europe to help Seoul and Tokyo tackle significant cutting-edge defense related projects of their own. For South Korea, this might be developing space surveillance systems. For Japan, it could be advanced communications, computing capabilities and cryptology to crack China’s great firewall.

Each of these steps would help. First, however, South Korea and Japan need to conclude that their acquisition of nuclear submarines would be, at best, a dangerous distraction.

Henry Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Arlington, Virginia, and author of Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future. He served as deputy for nonproliferation policy in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration.

GOP May Block Another Obama Deal

More than 160 House Republicans threaten to scuttle potential Iran deal

More than 160 House Republicans threaten to scuttle potential Iran deal

BY MYCHAEL SCHNELL – 02/17/22 10:00 AM EST 388

© iStock

More than 160 House Republicans are threatening to scuttle or rip up a potential nuclear deal with Iran, warning President Biden that any agreement struck without congressional approval will be opposed by members of the caucus — and overturned if Republicans retake power.

In a letter to Biden on Wednesday, members of the House GOP referenced reports that Iran is asking for a “guarantee” that the U.S. will never reimpose sanctions as long as the Middle East nation agrees to comply with an agreement regarding its nuclear program.

The lawmakers, however, emphasized that Biden does “not have the power” to make such a guarantee, and threatened to oppose an agreement made between the two countries that does not first receive congressional approval.

They said such a deal would be “non-binding,” and suggested it would experience the same outcome as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear deal negotiated under the Obama administration in 2015 then abandoned by former President Trump in 2018.

“If you forge an agreement with the Supreme Leader of Iran without formal Congressional approval, it will be temporary and non-binding and will meet the same fate as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, first reported by Axios.

The Republicans said they will oppose a deal to lift sanctions if Iran has not “fully dismantled their enrichment and reprocessing-related infrastructure capabilities,” among other terms — including that all Americans hostages are released and the country’s sponsorship of terrorism is ended.

The letter, signed by a total of 165 GOP lawmakers, comes more than two weeks after the Biden administration warned that the U.S. and Iran only have “a handful of weeks left to get a deal” on a nuclear agreement.

A group of Senate Republicans sent a similar letter to Biden last week, suggesting that the chamber could block an attempt to return to the JCPOA.

The debate over where authority lies in the potential renewal of an Iran nuclear deal hinges on the  Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), passed in May 2015 giving Congress the power to review agreements reached in P5+1″ talks with Iran and other world powers. 

Supporters of Biden’s push to return to the JCPOA argue the mandate for congressional review within the INARA does not apply since the administration is returning to the original agreement, which already went through a rigorous congressional review.

If the two nations were to re-enter the JCPOA, the broad strokes would be the U.S. lifting sanctions on Iran, and the Middle East nation halting its nuclear program and getting rid of excess nuclear material and infrastructure.

The Biden administration has said it believes the JCPOA is the best way the U.S. can immediately limit Iran’s nuclear activity while also opening it up to international monitoring.

The letter from House Republicans, however, reminded Biden of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which says the administration has to submit “any agreement related to the nuclear program with Iran” to Congress for evaluation.

“A return to mutual compliance is in the United States’ national security interests regardless of who is in office now or in the future on either side,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.

The spokesperson also said Biden “believes that a bipartisan approach to Iran is the strongest way to safeguard U.S. interests for the long-term,” adding that the administration is “committed to ensuring the requirements of INARA are satisfied.”

Biden administration officials have reached out to members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the administration’s approach to Iran, according to the spokesperson.

–Updated at 11:32 a.m.

Iranian commander lobbies Antichrist for ‘inclusive’ approach to Shiite parties

Iranian Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani speaks during a ceremony on the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 1, 2021.

Iranian commander lobbies Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr for ‘inclusive’ approach to Shiite parties

STR/AFP via Getty ImagesFebruary 15, 2022

The official website of Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement in Iraq, published Feb. 8 a brief statement noting that Sadr received the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, that same day.

The website did not publish a photo of the two during the meeting, nor did it mention any details even after it ended. However, Sadr tweeted a few hours later, “Neither Eastern nor Western — a national majority government.”

With the phrase “neither Eastern nor Western,” Sadr means that the government should be subservient to neither Iran nor the United States. According to Arabic Khameneiwebsite, Sadr is quoting previous speeches by leader of the Iranian Revolution in Iran Ruhollah Khomeini.

This is the third time that Ghaani has visited Iraq after the approval of the election results on Dec. 27, to facilitate the formation of new government. He had previously tried to meet Muqtada al-Sadr, but it only happened in the most recent visit. Ghaani was carrying a message from the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to a source close to Sadr’s office who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “the message was regarding the necessity of preserving the Shiite house and bridging the gap between the Sadrist movement and the Coordination Framework that includes armed Shiite political forces objecting to the results of the recent elections.”

According to the source, Khamenei’s message stressed “prohibiting division within the Shiite house.”

He said, “Sadr told Ghaani to convey a message to Khamenei that he is proceeding with the majority government projects with the participation of some parties, not all of the Coordination Framework.”

He added, “During a meeting between Ghaani and the leaders of the Coordination Framework, he informed them of the need to preserve the unity of the framework, and not to go with Sadr divided. Ghaani told them, ‘Either you all go with Sadr or all of you join the opposition.’”

Ghaani, who fears division within the Shiite house, advised that Sadr allies with the Coordination Framework to create a Shiite parliamentary force, the source noted.

The current Shiite political division represents Iran’s greatest challenges in Iraq, and perhaps in the region. The Shiite-Shiite conflict can undermine the influence Iran has achieved during the past 19 years, so Ghaani has made about four visits to Iraq since the beginning of 2022.

During these visits, he met with Shiite and Kurdish leaders, most notably Sadr and Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Leaked information indicated that Ghaani told Barzani that “going with Sadr without the other Shiite parties would endanger Iran’s national security.” This was a warning and a threat.

Abbas Kadhim, Iraq Initiative director at the Atlantic Council, told Al-Monitor, “Iran’s interest in forming Iraqi governments includes preventing division among Shiite blocs and preventing strife between Shiites and Sunni and Kurdish forces that have ties with Iran, so that Tehran does not have to choose between its Iraqi allies and friends. Ghaani’s task is to preserve the Iraqi consensus that Iran considers best for its interests in Iraq.”

He said, “Iran wants an Iraq that is strong enough to remain coherent and resistant to scenarios of chaos, but at the same time it does not want an Iraq that is too strong and threatens its interests.”

Kadhim noted, “Iraq is Iran’s economic and geopolitical lung and is part of the geography over which its allies extend to the Mediterranean Sea. It does not want Iraq to be ruled by a party or an alliance that changes this equation.”

It cannot be said that Iran’s influence on Sadr is great, nor that it does not exist, which paves the way for several scenarios — the most prominent of which is that Sadr starts thinking about the possibility of reconsidering his choices. But this would probably not amount to a withdrawal from his positions toward Nouri al-Maliki and Qais Khazali, who represent the stumbling block to Sadr’s alliance with the Coordination Framework.

The idea of political or armed conflict between the Shiite forces not only worries the Shiites, but the Sunni and Kurdish forces as well, because they believe that the collapse of the Shiite political situation would affect them. So Sunni and Kurdish leaders are putting forward initiatives to bring the views of the Shiite parties closer.

Toby Dodge, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics focusing on Iraq, told Al-Monitor, “It seems that Iran is only now intensifying pressure on Sadr given his refusal to move toward a consensual government. However, if Sadr continues to refuse to agree to what Tehran wants, it does not appear that Iran, at least for the time being, is willing or able to force him to make concessions.”

Dodge noted, “I am certain that Ghaani has neither the influence nor the strategy of his predecessor Qasem Soleimani. I suppose he wants to persuade Sadr to agree to an inclusive consensual government, but he cannot achieve that.”

The role that Ghaani plays in Iraq today is weak compared to that of Soleimani, who had broader relations with Shiite leaders to unite their ranks, but also with the Sunnis and the Kurds.

Ghaani does not have the power to impose visions and requirements on the Iraqi parties. Rather, he tries, as much as possible, to preserve the gains achieved over the past years, especially in light of the possibility of some Coordination Framework parties forming a government with Sadr.

What Iran fears the most at the moment is Sadr’s success in dismantling the Coordination Framework and forming a government that includes Sunnis and Kurds, while excluding Iran’s most prominent allies in Iraq — Maliki and Khazali. So Ghaani’s shuttle visits between Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf must stop Sadr’s project aiming to form a “national majority” government.

Russian Horn Continues to Move Into Europe: Daniel 7

 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, February 16, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron reuters_tickers

NATO says Russia still adding troops to Ukraine build-up

This content was published on February 16, 2022 – 14:42February 16, 2022 – 14:42

By Phil Stewart, Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO accused Russia on Wednesday of sending more troops to a massive military build-up around Ukraine, even as Moscow said that it was withdrawing forces and was open to diplomacy.

Separately, a senior Western intelligence official warned that Russian military exercises were at their peak stage and the risk of Russian aggression against Ukraine would remain high for the rest of February.

At the start of two days of talks among NATO defence ministers, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg appeared unconvinced the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine had lessened, and voiced guarded hopes for diplomacy.

“We have not seen any withdrawal of Russian forces. And of course, that contradicts the message of diplomatic efforts,” Stoltenberg said. “What we see is that they have increased the number of troops and more troops are on their way. So, so far, no de-escalation.”

Moscow wants to stop the former Soviet state from ever joining the NATO military alliance. NATO has refused to concede that demand and defence ministers sought to show a united front on Wednesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that more than 150,000 Russian troops were still massed near Ukraine’s borders.

The Russian defence ministry published video that it said showed tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery units leaving the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The senior Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said intelligence showed Russian military exercises would be at their most active during the remainder of February.

“We are at a peak period where the exercises that the Russians had announced are in their active phases,” the official said, adding that Russia would likely fire ballistic missiles eastwards from Belarus as part of its drills.

“There are no credible signs at this point that there will be any kind of military de-escalation,” the official said.

Russia could now attack Ukraine “with essentially no, or little-to-no, warning,” the official said.


Stoltenberg cautioned that Russia has frequently repositioned military equipment and troops during the build-up.

“Movement of forces, of battle tanks, doesn’t confirm a real withdrawal,” he said.

NATO is considering new steps to deter Russia on its eastern flank on Wednesday, in response to the Russian threat in Ukraine’s north, east and south.

Diplomats said that could involve 4,000 new troops in four battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary and Slovakia.

Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad, speaking on Tuesday before heading to NATO, said the Czech Republic could be part of a battlegroup in Slovakia but discussions were only at the beginning. Prague was not immediately available to comment.

“If we create structure here that will be made of units that have capabilities that Slovakia lacks, and that is what we are working on, then it not only strengthens our defence abilities but also saves means,” he said.

Ministers also considered the alliance’s nuclear deterrents, although discussions were highly confidential. Russia has amassed a large stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.OpinionWhat can NGOs learn from the trial of Elizabeth Holmes?This content was published on Feb 6, 2022The recent downfall of Elizabeth Holmes can teach NGOs some valuable lessons about humility, corporate governance and accountability.

The latest crisis has galvanized NATO and given the alliance a renewed sense of purpose after the soul-searching that followed last year’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The escalation of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border is increasing and significant, and implores us as an alliance to continue to work together,” Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand said as she arrived for the meeting.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Iran says nuclear Obama agreement ‘closer than ever’

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – APRIL 15: (—-EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT – “EUROPEAN UNION DELEGATION IN VIENNA / HANDOUT” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS—-) The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action meeting held to discuss the full implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the return of the United States to the deal in Vienna, Austria on April 15, 2021. (Photo by EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Iran says nuclear agreement ‘closer than ever’ as France steps up pressure


TEHRAN: Iran has just days left to accept a deal on its nuclear programme at talks in Vienna, France warned on Wednesday, while Tehran’s chief negotiator promised that an agreement was closer than ever.

“It is not a question of weeks, it is a question of days,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Senate, adding that a major crisis would be unleashed if there is no agreement.

The Vienna talks, which involve Iran as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly, and the United States indirectly, resumed in late November with the aim of restoring the 2015 deal.

That accord had offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, but the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and reimposed heavy economic sanctions, prompting Iran to begin rolling back on its commitments.

“We are closer than ever to an agreement,” Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Our negotiating partners need to be realistic, avoid intransigence and heed lessons of past 4yrs. Time for their serious decisions.”

Earlier in the day, Tehran had called on the US Congress to say Washington would commit if an agreement is reached in Vienna.

“As a matter of principle, public opinion in Iran cannot accept as a guarantee the words of a head of state, let alone the United States, due to the withdrawal of Americans” in 2018, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told the Financial Times in an interview published on his ministry’s website.

He stressed that he had asked Iranian negotiators to propose to the Western parties that “at least their parliaments or parliament speakers, including the US Congress, can declare in the form of a political statement their commitment to the agreement.”

‘Within grasp’

In 2018, then-president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions against Iran, battering the country’s economy. In response, Tehran ramped up its nuclear work, violating the terms of the 2015 deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Negotiations in Vienna are seeking to return Washington to the nuclear deal, including through the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and to ensure Tehran’s full compliance with its commitments.

“We need political decisions from the Iranians. They have a very clear choice,” France’s Le Drian said.

“Either they unleash a serious crisis in the next days… or they accept an agreement that respects the interests of all the parties, especially those of Iran,” he said.

He described a deal as being “within grasp” and noted there was now agreement on an accord between the European powers as well as China, Russia and the United States.

But he said that time was running out because Iran was continuing to intensify its nuclear activities.

“The more this goes on, the more Iran is accelerating its nuclear procedures,” he said.