COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another earthquake shook up the South Carolina Midlands Thursday morning.
The earthquake hit at around 7 a.m. about 20 miles outside of Columbia, according to the United States Geological Survey. The 2.5 magnitude had it’s epicenters near Elgin.
This is the sixth earthquake since Dec. 27 when a 3.3 magnitude quake was reported. People reported feeling shaking and hearing a loud boom during some of the other quakes. All the seismic activity has been centered near Elgin or neighboring Lugoff. The other four earthquakes have been 2.5 magnitude or lower.
An earthquake of 2.5 magnitude is considered minor, according to seismologists. For the most part quakes that register 2.5 magnitude or less go unnoticed and are only recorded by a seismograph. Any quake less than 5.5 magnitude is not likely to cause significant damage.
Earthquakes can happen in clusters, seismologist say.
While the world has justly focused its attention on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, another problematic development is flying under the radar in Iran.
According to numerous American and international officials, the Islamic regime may soon receive tens of billions of dollars to supercharge their terrorism. When combined with the Iranian government’s clandestine nuclear program, chants of “death to America,” and stated hatred of Israel, this development represents a rapidly escalating and existential threat to U.S. interests.
A bit of history is useful here. In an effort to contain Iranian nuclear ambitions in 2015, President Barack Obama negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a horrible deal that fundamentally failed to address the problem of a nuclear Iran. First, it provided Iran a pathway to a nuclear bomb, albeit with years of delays. Second, America provided sanctions relief and, who could forget, literal pallets of cash to the Iranian regime. Lastly, the deal permitted the Islamic regime to continue their ballistic missile programs and turned a blind eye to their state sponsorship of terrorism and attacks on American soldiers in Iraq (efforts that have killed over 600 of our troops).
It’s worth acknowledging the foresight of Senator Tom Cotton, who, along with several dozen colleagues in the Senate, understood just how bad a deal President Obama was negotiating with the Iranians in 2015. In an open letter to the Iranian regime, he noted that the U.S. Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to vote in favor of entering any new treaties, and barring such action, the deal would simply be a political agreement between Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. Cotton’s letter also appropriately noted that many U.S. senators would likely remain in office well beyond the 2016 American presidential election. The letter’s goal was simple: “to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
Cotton noted that a future president could exit any agreement “with the stroke of a pen,” something that President Trump did in 2018 to more effectively combat Iran’s funding of terrorism, hostage-taking and nuclear ambitions. Let’s not forget that Iran has directly funded the Houthis in Yemen, a terrorist group that has conducted drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and attacked the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, taking numerous staff as hostages. In fact, Iran has spent more than $16 billion since 2012 on support for terrorist proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Iran claimed it would release detained Americans as part of the JCPOA. Yet, on the 15th anniversary of the abduction of retired FBI agent and American patriot Bob Levinson, let’s consider Iran’s actions. Not only did they fail to release him, but it was also later revealed that Levinson most likely died in Iranian captivity. The Iranians have never revealed what happened to him or who in their government was responsible for his death. In the meantime, they’ve taken even more American hostages, hoping Biden will fork over even more money in return. That would be a dangerous mistake. Paying ransom to terrorists in exchange for hostages is likely to result in more innocent Americans being taken captive.
Yet, the Biden administration is apparently seeking to restore the JCPOA. According to various press reports and information shared by Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department official who focused on Iran, career government officials are so concerned with the concessions made during negotiations that they have disclosed details of the potential deal “in the hopes that Congress will act to stop the capitulation.” The contemplated deal offers Iran jaw-dropping sanctions relief and a path to a nuclear bomb. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know this makes no sense.
One of the architects of the original JCPOA was John Kerry. As Kerry has recently made clear, global developments risk distracting us from supposedly “existential” risks such as climate change. Perhaps the Biden administration’s quest for a supposed “diplomatic win” (and the prospect of Iranian oil to ease pain at the U.S. pump) is distracting them from the fact that they would be enabling a nuclear Iran, funding terrorist groups, skirting U.S. laws that require Senate consent, and selling out Israel and America in the process?
We need to stop wasting time trying to restore a bad deal. As Mike Pompeo has summarized, “lifting sanctions on the Iranian terrorists will bring more war and more terror. It will not stop the Iranian nuclear program. A wealthy Iran will continue to kill around the world, even here at home.” The only death America should enable is that of this deal.
India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is more like to respond to the Pakistan military’s real or perceived provocation than in the past, an annual threat assessment report by the US intelligence community told the US Congress.
The report released by the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said that the crisis between India and Pakistan was of particular concern “because of the risk – however low – of an escalatory cycle between two nuclear-armed states.”
“Pakistan has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups; under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations, and each side’s perception of heightened tensions raises the risk of conflict, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints,” the ODNI report said.
The report also acknowledged the growing strain in relations between India and China in the wake 2020 border clash, saying that there is a growing risk of armed confrontation between the two Asian giants.
GAZA, Wednesday, March 9, 2022 (WAFA) – Israeli occupation forces today opened gunfire in separate incidents at Palestinian fishermen at sea and farmers at border areas in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.
WAFA correspondent said soldiers stationed at a watchtower north of Beit Lahya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, open heavy gunfire at fishermen near the shore and forced them to return to the harbor.
Soldiers also opened gunfire at farmers, east of Beit Hanon, also in the north of Gaza, and at farmers and herders east of Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, forcing them to leave their border area land and pastures.
No one was hurt in any of the incidents, said the correspondent.
Australia will boost its defence forces by some 30 percent by 2040, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday, describing it as the country’s largest military build-up in peacetime.
The force would grow by 18,500 personnel to 80,000 over the 18-year period, at a cost of some Aus$38 billion (US$27 billion), the prime minister said at an army barracks in Brisbane.
Morrison, who is expected to call a general election in May, told a news conference it was the “biggest increase in the size of our defence forces in peacetime in Australian history”.
He said the military build-up was a recognition by his government of the “threats and the environment that we face as a country, as a liberal democracy in the Indo-Pacific”.
The Australian leader said some of the new troops would support a future nuclear-powered submarine fleet, promised under a new Australia-Britain-US defence alliance, AUKUS.
Australia says it plans to arm the submarines with conventional weapons but has yet to decide on the details of the programme, including whether to opt for a fleet based on US or British nuclear-powered attack submarines.
Forged at a time of growing Chinese influence in the Pacific region, the AUKUS alliance would make Australia the only non-nuclear weapons power with nuclear-powered submarines, capable of travelling long distances without surfacing.
Beyond submarines, the new forces would be deployed in areas including space, cyber operations, naval assets, and land and sea-based autonomous vehicles, Dutton said.
“It is absolutely necessary,” he said, invoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
“People who believe that President Putin’s only ambition is for the Ukraine don’t understand the history that our military leaders understand.”
The defence minister reiterated warnings about the strategic threat to Australia in the Asia-Pacific region, where China is flexing its increased power.
“If people think that the ambitions within the Indo-Pacific are restricted just to Taiwan and there won’t be knock-on impacts if we don’t provide a deterrent effect and work closely with our colleagues and with our allies, then they don’t understand the lessons of history,” Dutton said.
Australia’s conservative coalition government has been brandishing its defence credentials in the run-up to the election, with a string of polls showing the opposition Labor party ahead.
But the government has been criticised for being too slow to deploy troops to help people hit by a near two-week flooding disaster across eastern Australia that has killed 21 people.
Morrison said Thursday that the deployment of navy, army and air force personnel across the flood-damaged east coast would grow to 5,748 by the end of the day.
To some degree, Russia’s force structure design makes it inevitable its nuclear weapons will be flaunted any time it uses military power. It has reportedly deployed its Iskander missile systems to fire short-range conventional missiles into Ukraine, but these systems are dual-capable, meaning they can also launch nuclear-armed missiles. Media reports also indicate Russia sent its Kinzhal nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles to Kaliningrad as a part of its force buildup in advance of its invasion of Ukraine. Deployment of these systems signals anyone seeking to challenge Russia to back off.
Unfortunately for the Biden administration’s ambitions to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in America’s military strategy, the adversary gets a vote. Russia has the most nuclear weapons on Earth. This stark reality contrasts with the picture painted by the arms control community that treaties with Russia have achieved an equitable nuclear relationship.
When negotiating the renewal of New START, the Biden administration opted to maintain the status quo. As the administration develops its Nuclear Posture Review, rumors abound it may even aim to reduce America’s nuclear weapons.
During the Trump administration, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) recommended a continued commitment to modernization of the air, land and sea legs of America’s nuclear triad. The 2018 NPR further suggested two supplemental nuclear capabilities be added to enhance deterrence of Russia’s growing non-strategic nuclear arsenal: a low-yield ballistic missile and a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile. Russia’s nuclear brandishing during the Ukraine crisis makes the supplemental capabilities put forward in 2018 even more necessary.
We have found ourselves in a precarious situation. Russia’s larger nuclear arsenal is almost entirely modernized, while the United States is just now starting the process of acquiring new systems to replace decades-old platforms. Many of our nuclear systems are even being replaced on a one-to-one basis, meaning any delay would result in the reduced capacity of our nuclear deterrent.
The United States must demonstrate resolve and recommit to a strengthened nuclear deterrence posture. It is essential for the protection of our homeland and forces, as well as our allies to whom we extend nuclear deterrence. The credibility of our nuclear deterrent rests on the capability of our nuclear forces, and at this moment, we must choose strength over weakness.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., is ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.
Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling, while alarming, is at this point most likely a blaring signal for NATO not to get involved in Russia and Ukraine’s conflict, experts said. But concerns are rising of the still-slim possibility that Russia could try to strengthen its stalling offensive with a tactical nuke. This is a subject of pressing debate among experts Insider interviewed.
“We certainly should be worried about his saber-rattling — that is irresponsible and reckless,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
“Whether we should be worried about whether he will actually use them I think is another question,” he continued, “because there are no indications that I’ve heard of that he has taken any steps, unique steps to ready the forces to do such a thing.”
If Russia were to use nuclear weapons, it’s likely they would use tactical weapons, also known as battlefield nukes, which are designed to be used on a smaller scale — on the battlefield or for a limited strike. These Russian warheads can be fitted to cruise missiles, torpedoes, or bombs to obliterate a bunker, naval base, or air defenses. While powerful, their blasts are typically smaller by a factor of 60 or more from Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, some of which carry multiple thermonuclear warheads.
Kristensen said Putin’s move could be a “bravado type of chest-thumping,” but, more than that, it’s “a very pointed message to NATO not to get involved.”
Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a nuclear-proliferation expert, echoed Kristensen in a March 1 interview.
“Every time Putin has talked about nuclear weapons in the last week, it has been with a view to warning NATO,” he said. “It has not been with any reference to Ukraine. So as long as NATO stays out of the fight, I think that it’s less of a concern,” he said of tactical nuclear warfare.
The consequences of nuclear combat are so extreme, with deaths measured in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, that some argue the West can’t assume Putin is bluffing, a view that is shaping the Biden administration’s response. And as Putin’s offensive struggles and NATO reiterates it will not defend Ukraine, some experts warn that an increasingly desperate Putin could have reasons to turn to a battlefield nuke.
If Russia were to use tactical nukes, the results would almost certainly be catastrophic, with researchers at Princeton University estimating more than 91 million people in Russia, the US, and NATO-allied countries could be killed within three hours. The researchers, from Princeton’s Science and Global Security lab, created a simulation that shows one tactical “nuclear warning shot” from Russia could quickly devolve into full-blown nuclear war.
“This project is motivated by the need to highlight the potentially catastrophic consequences of current US and Russian nuclear war plans. The risk of nuclear war has increased dramatically in the past two years,” the project states on its website.
President Joe Biden has made it clear that the US has no interest in provoking Russia and is trying to walk a fine line of hammering Russia with economic sanctions and continuing to arm Ukraine’s military without being viewed by Russia as a combatant.
“Provocative rhetoric like this regarding nuclear weapons is dangerous, adds to the risk of miscalculation, should be avoided and we’ll not indulge in it,” the White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in late February.
Although most experts agree that the chances of nuclear war are extremely low, some are concerned that Putin would use a tactical nuke if he were to become desperate enough.
Retired Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, a former defense attaché to Russia and senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, is worried that Putin, in his desperation, could use a “small nuclear weapon” to keep the US and NATO out of the conflict.
“It’s not a good thing, and it’s not something I think everybody wants to jump to — including Putin,” Ryan said. “But this is everything for him now,” he said of the war with Ukraine. “If he doesn’t accomplish this, his own people will take him out.”
Jonathan Katz, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said that Putin’s nuclear threats should be taken “quite seriously.”
“The difference between this conflict and Chechnya, Syria, and other attacks in the past is that NATO and the United States are standing right now on the other side of the border, directly arming and supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians to defend their country,” Katz said.
“Putin is calculating right now, if this spills over into something more significant he may decide to use whatever weapon is at his disposal,” Katz continued. “If he feels that this is going beyond Ukraine into these other spaces, including with NATO and the United States, I think all bets are off the table.”