The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

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 (
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
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.

More Lies From the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

FILE - This Sept. 1, 2014 file photo, shows a nuclear research reactor at the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which went online with American help in 1967 - before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution strained ties between the two countries, in Tehran, Iran has converted a fraction of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium into material that can detect cancers and other diseases. That's according to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and an Iranian media report on Friday, March 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Watchdog: Iran converts sliver of its high-enriched uranium

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran has converted a fraction of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium into material crucial for detecting cancers and other diseases, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and an Iranian media report said Friday. 

Iran’s decision to convert the uranium takes it out of a form that can potentially be further refined into weapons-grade levels. The development comes as talks in Vienna over restoring Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers hang in the balance. 

Negotiators previously said they had reached the end of a monthslong effort to find a way to bring both the United States and Iran back into the accord — just as a Russian demand threw the talks into a chaotic pause.

Since then, Iran and the United Kingdom agreed to a prisoner release and news of the decision by Tehran to reprocess the uranium appears to signal that the negotiations may still see the parties return to Vienna and reach a deal. However, Israel, Iran’s archrival in the Mideast, has increasingly criticized efforts to revive the accord.

In a statement Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had used 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) of its 60% enriched uranium to produce so-called “highly enriched uranium targets” at a facility in Isfahan. Those “targets” will be irradiated at the Tehran Research Reactor and later used to produce molybdenum-99, the IAEA said. 

Molybdenum-99 decays within days into a form of an isotope called technetium-99m, which is used in scans that can detect cancer and assess blood supply to the heart. In the U.S., technetium-99m is used in over 40,000 medical procedures a day, according to the Energy Department.

Increasingly, countries around the world use low-enriched uranium to create the needed isotope to avoid the proliferation risks of employing highly enriched uranium.

Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency, quoting unnamed officials it referred to as “informed sources,” acknowledged that some of this material had been reprocessed. The report added that 2 kilograms (4.41 pounds) of the material could help 1 million people. The IAEA said that as of Feb. 19, Iran had a stockpile of 33.2 kilograms (73.19 pounds) of 60% enriched uranium — material a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%. 

“The materials converted to ‘target,’ was irradiated, and has no danger of spreading, and Western countries cannot criticize Iran over this,” the Mehr report said. 

Under the 2015 accord, Iran agreed to cap its enrichment as 3.67%, end the use of advanced centrifuges and maintain a stockpile of 300 kilograms (661 pounds) under the scrutiny of the IAEA. 

As of Feb. 19, Iran had a stockpile of 2,883 kilograms (6,355 pounds) with ever-more advanced centrifuges spinning. While Iran long has maintained its program is peaceful, the West and the IAEA say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program that broke up in 2003.

Using the 60% enriched uranium to create isotope material means “for all practical purposes” it can’t be reconstituted for the wider stockpile, said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. 

However, he stressed that to bring Iran back to the levels of the 2015 deal, its stockpile would need to be again shipped abroad.

“It may be that at this delicate juncture in the negotiations — the 11th hour — Iran is trying to suggest that it has some better intentions here,” Kimball told The Associated Press. “This may be an effort to show that they’re interested in working out a deal.”

But, he added that “it also may be a justification ex post facto to enrich uranium to 60%. It may be a way to create a cover story for what they’ve already done, which they weren’t supposed to do.” 

In Israel on Friday, a joint statement from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned the U.S. against potentially lifting a terrorism designation on Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. That’s been a remaining demand of Iran and the subject of the final negotiations in Vienna

“The attempt to delist the IRGC as a terrorist organization is an insult to the victims and would ignore documented reality supported by unequivocal evidence,” the Israeli statement said, using an acronym for the Guard. “We find it hard to believe that the IRGC’s designation as a terrorist organization will be removed in exchange for a promise not to harm Americans.”


Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at 


Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Biden warns the Chinese Horn not to help Russia

Biden warns China’s Xi not to help Russia on Ukraine

In a call between the leaders, Biden warned of ‘consequences’ if China provides material support to Moscow as it pursues a devastating invasion of its neighbor

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Ukrainian forces continued to put up a defiant defense of their country’s cities, limiting Russian ground advances as the Kremlin’s invasion entered its 24th day. But the growing human cost of the invasion has forced Zelensky to consider concessions to bring an end to the devastating conflict, Western officials said

The fight: Russia — which has launched more than 1,000 missiles so far — is increasingly relying on “dumb” bombs to wear cities and civilians down. Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been extensive with strikes and attacks across the entire country. Russia has been accused of committing war crimes.

The weapons: Ukraine is making use weapons like Javelin antitank missiles and Switchblade “kamikaze” drones from the United States and other allies to combat the superior numbers and heavier weaponry of the Russian military.

Oil prices: Sanctions on Russia are helping gas prices hit new highs. Here’s why — and how long the surge could last.

In Russia: Putin has locked down the flow of information within Russia, where the war isn’t even being called a war. “Information warriors” from around the world are working to penetrate Putin’s propaganda wall.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Iran Strikes Against Babylon the Great: Daniel 8

FILE - This photo released Sept. 21, 2010, by the Iranian Defense Ministry, claims to show the upgraded surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missile at an undisclosed location, in Tehran, Iran. Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said on its website that it launched a missile barrage that struck early Sunday,March 13, 2022, near a sprawling U.S. consulate complex in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, saying it was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard. An Iraqi officials said the ballistic missiles were the Iranian-made Fateh-110. (Vahid Reza Alaei/Iranian Defense Ministry, via AP, File)

General: Iran, Israel missile strikes put US troops at risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — The exchange of missile strikes by Iran and Israel in Iraq and Syria puts U.S. forces at risk, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said Friday, just days after an Iranian missile barrage struck near the U.S. consulate complex in northern Iraq.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told Pentagon reporters that over the past six months Iran has attacked U.S. forces and facilities a number of times, but “very good action on the part of commanders on the ground” has thwarted any U.S. casualties.

“Had U.S. casualties occurred, I think we might be in a very different place right now,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie and other U.S. officials said this week the missile strikes on Sunday that hit close to the consulate were not aimed at the U.S. And Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said on its website that it had attacked what it described as an Israeli spy center in Irbil.

U.S. and Israeli officials declined to publicly comment or describe the target. But the attack came several days after Iran said it would retaliate for an Israeli strike near Damascus, Syria, that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard. 

“I think it’s obvious that Israel is going to take steps to defend itself when it’s confronted with with Iranian actions. And of course, Iran is dedicated to the destruction of Israel,” McKenzie said Friday. “I do worry about these exchanges between Iran and Israel, because many times our forces are at risk, whether in Iraq or in Syria. So that, in fact, does concern me.”

McKenzie, who is retiring after about three years as head of U.S. Central Command, was speaking at what was expected to be his final press briefing. He said that as he prepares to turn over the job to incoming Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, his message to his successor is that Iran continues to be his biggest challenge.

“My central problem in my three years of command was Iran,” said McKenzie, who also oversaw the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and commando raids to kill Islamic State leaders. “There were other problems, other huge problems, but the headquarters as a whole … focused on the Iranian problem and everything attendant to that.”

The U.S. presence in Iraq has long been a flash point for Tehran, but tensions spiked after a January 2020 U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport killed a top Iranian general. In retaliation, Iran launched a barrage of missiles at al-Asad airbase, where U.S. troops were stationed. More than 100 service members suffered traumatic brain injuries in the blasts.

More recently, Iranian proxies are believed responsible for an assassination attempt late last year on Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. And officials have said they believe Iran was behind the October drone attack at the military outpost in southern Syria where American troops are based. No U.S. personnel were killed or injured in the attack.

Last year, U.S. forces in Iraq shifted to a non-combat role, but Iran and its proxies still want all American troops to leave the country. McKenzie said the Iranian leaders believe that they can launch a certain level of attacks against the U.S. without affecting the ongoing negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Diplomats trying to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal appear to be near the cusp of an agreement that would bring the U.S. back into the accord and bring Iran back into compliance with limits on its nuclear program. 

Congressional opponents of the deal peppered McKenzie with questions this week about the impact of an agreement on Iranian aggression and whether sanctions relief will only provide Iran funding for other malign behavior. 

McKenzie said the U.S. has gotten better at countering potential strikes by Iranian drones and other defensive measures, which contributed to the lack of American casualties. But he and others have noted that the Iranian ballistic missile strikes have gotten more precise.

“We don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and the best way to get to that is probably through a negotiated solution,” he said, adding that such a deal won’t likely solve other problems, such as Iranian conventional attacks in the region. “I don’t think anybody in the United States government is blind to that fact, but … if you can take nuclear weapons off the table, that’s a powerful capability that you don’t have to worry about.”

Once that is done, he said, then the U.S. could move on and deal with other problems, including Iran’s increasing ballistic missile and drone threats. 

“What you’d like to do is negotiate that, but if you can negotiate that, that’s where U.S. Central Command comes in. It’s our job to demonstrate to Iran the concept of deterrence – that the things they want to pursue are too painful for them to achieve. We work at that every day.”

The Iranian Horn’s Attacks in Iraq

A general view shows a damaged mansion

In the early hours of Sunday, March 13, residents of Erbil, the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), woke up to the blasts of 12 Iranian ballistic missiles targeting a residential area in the city.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for the attack, and said that the missiles were launched in retaliationto an Israeli attack allegedly launched from Erbil last month targeting an Iranian drone factory.

“A dozen ballistic missiles hit secret Mossad bases in Erbil, reportedly leaving several Israeli operatives dead,” Iran’s state-run Press TV quoting a statement by the IRGC. “The operation was in response to an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus last Monday, in which two IRGC officers were killed.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a statement described IRGC’s attack as “cowardly” and confirmed that the missiles have targeted “civilian locations”, but no casualties have been reported.

“Political analysts, however, warn that while Israel’s attack may have triggered the strikes, the missiles were intended to convey a broader political message”

“Iran has repeated these attacks many times, and the silence of the international community in the face of these cowardly attacks will pave the way for their continuation,” reads part of the statement. “We call on the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the Arab League, the federal government, the Iraqi parliament, and the Iranian government to urgently investigate these baseless attacks, visit targeted locations, reveal the facts to the public, and take a true and strong stance on these attacks.”

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, warnedof more Iranian attacks on “Israeli strategic centres” in Erbil during a meeting with Iraqi foreign ministry officials on March 13. 

“Masjedi submitted documents to the Iraqi foreign ministry officials proving that Israeli drones have flown from a mansion in Erbil and carried out attacks against a fleet of the IRGC” an Iraqi source close to both the Iranian and Iraqi officials told The New Arab, under a strict condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information.

“Masjedi also mentioned some other suspected places in Erbil of harbouring Israeli activities and told Iraqi officials to warn the Kurdish authorities that Iran would attack those places within a month if the places would not be evacuated,” the source added. 

Political analysts, however, warn that while Israel’s attack may have triggered the strikes, the missiles were intended to convey a broader political message from Iran to Israel, the US, the Kurdish authorities as well as their allies in Iraq.

Dana Taib Menmy

Iran’s slipping grip on Iraqi politics

Tehran’s assault comes at a time when Iraq’s political process is in stagnation and political factions have been unable to elect a president or form a new cabinet following last October’s parliamentary elections. Pro-Iran Shiite groups scored poorly in the election, leaving Iran deeply wary of a potential trilateral coalitionamong Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the Arab Sunni factions headed by Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Mohammad al-Halbusi, and Massaud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The coalition has repeatedly announced that it is seeking to form a “national unity” government, in a stern indication to side-linepro-Tehran Shiite parties and militias.

“The goal behind Iran’s missile attack on the IKR is clear. An alleged existence of Israeli headquarters in Erbil is just a pretext, because Iran could retaliate for the killing of its soldiers in Syria through ordering Lebanon’s Hezbollah to launch rocket attacks against Israel. Iran could also strike Israel from Syria,” Mohammad Amin Penjweni, a Kurdish political analyst told The New Arab.

“The core issue is that this attack by IRGC is a special message from Iran to the Kurds, the KRG, and mainly the KDP authorities in Erbil to withdraw from their coalition with Sadr and the Sunni Arabs. Tehran deems the alliance as a threat to its Shiite proxies, hence diminishing its influence and interests in Iraq,” Penjweni added.

Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and Iraq's Kurdish Region Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani visit areas damaged areas by Iranian missiles in Erbil, Iraq on March 14, 2022. [Getty]
Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and Iraq’s Kurdish Region Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani visit areas damaged areas by Iranian missiles in Erbil, Iraq on March 14, 2022. [Getty]

“Secondly, Iran wants to convey a message to the KDP to stop their plans to export natural gas from Khor Mor and Chamchamal’s vast gas fields to Turkey,” Penjweni continued. “Iran is against such plans by the KDP, because if the Kurdish natural gas were to be exported to Turkey, Iran’s natural gas exports to Turkey and Iraq would be heavily damaged.”

Khor Mor and Chemchemal are two major oil and gas fields located west of Sulaimaniyah province, approximately 50km south-east of Kirkuk. Since 2007, UAE’s Dana Gas and Crescent Petroleum have had an agreement with the KRG for exclusive rights to appraise, develop, produce, and sell hydrocarbons from the two fields.

In February, Kurdish President Nechirvan Barzani met with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, and two days later, Erdogan announced that Turkey is in talks with Iraqi authorities to reach a deal to import Iraq’s natural gas, indicating that Barzani has promised to help facilitate the talks.

The Kurdistan region started selling its oil independently from Baghdad in 2014 via a pipeline that transports nearly 45,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

“For Iraqi Kurds to avoid further escalations by Iran and its allies, they may need to reconsider their economic and political ties with Ankara and Tehran”

Last month, KRG struck a deal with the Iraqi Kurdish oil company Kar Group to build a new gas pipeline from Khor Mor and Chamchamal gas fields to Dohuk province, only 35km from the Turkish border. The project is seen as a step closer to exporting the region’s gas to Turkey in the near future.

Shortly after, Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that a 2007 law that gave KRG autonomy over its energy sector is “unconstitutional”, and ordered the KRG to hand over its oil to the Iraqi federal government.

“The IKR gas project has been hastened as an alternative to the Russian gas flow to Europe in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. If the war prolongs, the possibilities of cutting off or damaging the Russian natural gas pipelines that pass through the Ukrainian territories remain at stake,” Penjweni explained. 

“For Iraqi Kurds to void further escalations by Iran and its allies, they may need to reconsider their economic and political ties with Ankara and Tehran,” Penjweni emphasised, adding that avoiding taking sides in regional conflicts would be most beneficial as a new hydrocarbon law is negotiated. 

The New Arab

Asserting regional power

The political message conveyed by Iran’s attack on Erbil extends beyond Iraqi affairs and regional politics. 

Ihssan al-Shmary, Head of the Centre for Political Thinking in Iraq and Professor at the University of Baghdad, told The New Arab that Iran’s retaliatory response against Israel is intended to showcase Tehran’s regional power, and “to warn Israel to stop in a certain boundary and refrain from trying to change its warfare principle with Tehran.”

As the nuclear deal talks continue amid strained relations between Iran and Western powers, “Iran is conveying a message to the Americans that in case the Vienna talks, aimed at restoring its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, collapse, American interests in the area could be targeted,” al-Shmary added.

“Iran is conveying a message to the Americans that in case the Vienna talks, aimed at restoring its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, collapse, American interests in the area could be targeted”

In attacking Erbil, Iran is hoping to convince top leaders of the ruling KDP in Erbil that the city would be at risk if they continue to form ties with powers that Tehran deems as its opponents. 

“Tehran’s last message is that if the KDP continues its alliance with Sadr and Halbusi to form a new Iraqi cabinet excluding Tehran’s Shiite allies, the cost would be very expensive,” al-Shmary said. 

Despite what happened in Erbil, the triple alliance of Sadr-Halbusi-Barzani may withhold, al-Shmary concluded, but he anticipated that they would seek “a new approach” on how to form the new Iraqi government in the wake of Iran’s blatant warnings.

Dana Taib Menmy is The New Arab’s correspondent in the Iraqi Kurdistan region writing on issues of politics, society, human rights, security, and minorities.

Follow him on Twitter: @danataibmenmy

Pakistan Prepared to Start the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Indian and Pakistani border forces
 Indian and Pakistani border forces at the India-Pakistan Wagah Border Post. Image: AFP

Pakistan Prepared to Retaliate Against Indian Missile Mishap: Report


Pakistan armed forces prepared to retaliate as an “accidentally launched” Indian missile landed in its territory last week, Bloomberg revealed, citing unnamed sources.

The South Asian country held back from firing a missile in response as an anomaly was noticed in the Indian projectile — reportedly a Brahmos cruise missile — during “initial assessment,” the outlet added without specifying.

Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar stated: ”On March 9, at 6:43 pm, a high-speed flying object was picked up inside the Indian territory by the Air Defence Operations Centre of the Pakistan Air Force.” 

“From its initial course, the object suddenly maneuvered towards Pakistani territory and violated Pakistan’s airspace, ultimately falling near Mian Channu at 6:50 pm.” 

‘Human, Technical Errors’

The unarmed missile flew about 124 kilometers (77 miles) inside Pakistan for 3 minutes and 44 seconds, falling in Khanewal district and damaging “civilian properties.” No casualties were reported in the incident. 

Bloomberg wrote that the missile was fired from the north Indian city of Ambala, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Delhi, during “a routine exercise to check systems capable of taking offensive action in the war,” attributing the launch to human and technical errors.

The launch prompted Indian Air Force officials to rush to “shut down the missile systems to avoid any further launches.” However, the country did not use a direct hotline between senior army officials of the two nations to inform Pakistan of the launch.

Pakistan Reaction

Pakistan revealed the launch a day later, followed by an Indian government statement acknowledging the incident.

Pakistani officials criticized the delay in Indian response and questioned the safety of the country’s “nuclear and other high end” systems. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf lambasted India on Twitter, questioning whether it “was an inadvertent launch or something more intentional.”

Meanwhile, The Print cited sources reporting that Indian officials did inform Pakistan of the incident before it was made public. The Indian government has launched an inquiry to determine the exact cause of the mishap.

The threat of nuclear war hangs over the Russia-Ukraine crisis: Revelation 16

March 18, 20225:02 AM ET

NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to Slate’s Fred Kaplan, author of The Bomb: Presidents Generals and the Secret History of Nuclear War, about whether Russia might use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.


When we talk about Russia’s war in Ukraine, it is hard to ignore the worst possible outcome – some kind of nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States – which is one of the big reasons the Biden administration has said no to Ukraine’s repeated requests for a no-fly zone meant to deter Russian airstrikes; too much risk of direct military confrontation between nuclear powers. We called up Fred Kaplan. He’s a national security correspondent at Slate and the author of the book “The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, And The Secret History Of Nuclear War.” I asked him about Putin’s willingness to use a nuclear weapon to get what he wants right now. Kaplan began with a few guarded words of reassurance.

FRED KAPLAN: Well, first I would say the chances of that happening are very low.

MARTIN: But we hadn’t called Fred Kaplan for blanket reassurances and really he wasn’t offering any.

KAPLAN: On the other hand, there are probably – there’s a higher chance of something like that happening maybe than any time since the Cuban missile crisis. The thing is this – he’s losing the war on the ground, or if he’s not losing, he’s not winning. And he thought he would win. I think it’s quite possible that if NATO or U.S. forces got involved directly in the battle, he might very well use or launch a small number of tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons to try to bring it to a halt.

MARTIN: Just explain what that means because that’s still real bad.

KAPLAN: Yeah. It’s – tactical nuclear weapon is the phrase. Basically, it means a weapon used on the battlefield, whereas a strategic nuclear weapon is a long-range weapon that Russia would hit a target in the United States or the United States would hit a target in Russia. But, you know, there is a tendency when people say low-yield nuclear weapon, it sounds like, oh, well, it’s just a low-yield weapon. But our low-yield weapon, it explodes with the power of 8,000 tons of dynamite plus radiation, radioactive fallout and all the rest. It is still, by the standards of any explosion that anyone alive today has ever seen, it’s extraordinarily large.

MARTIN: In your book, you do describe this nuclear war game, for lack of a better phrase, that the White House and the Pentagon talked through during the Obama administration. It was a made-up scenario, but it’s not too far from what we’re witnessing in Ukraine. Walk us through how U.S. policymakers, the deciders in the room, thought that scenario through.

KAPLAN: Yeah. As you say, there was this war game. They were kind of trying to play out how this escalate and de-escalate scenario would work. And so they devised this scenario where there is a war, maybe Russia invades the Baltic states. We fight back. We’re winning on the ground. Russia sets off a couple of tactical nuclear weapons, maybe against troop concentrations, U.S. or NATO or maybe a NATO airfield. Then what do we do? Well, let’s see. What kind of targets would we want to hit with a nuclear weapon in response? And then a couple of officials said, wait a minute, I think you’re missing the main point. Russia, once they use a nuclear weapon, the world will come down upon them. Nobody’s used a nuclear weapon in anger since 1945. They’re going to get slammed with every kind of sanction and every kind of isolation you can imagine. Let’s just keep fighting the war with conventional weapons, which is extraordinary. I mean…

MARTIN: Why would it be extraordinary that they would want to avert mutually assured destruction?

KAPLAN: It’s been kind of assumed that if somebody uses a nuclear weapon first, we would fire a nuclear weapon back. And what happened – there was a second game, and this is with the Principals Committee of the NSC. And somebody brought up the same idea. Let’s just keep fighting conventionally and shame Russia. And everybody else around the table said this would be a disaster. The credibility of the United States with all of our alliances is that we would respond to a nuclear weapon with nuclear weapons. This would completely destroy NATO if we didn’t fire back in kind. And then the question became, well, where do we fire these weapons? And they came up with AN idea, well, let’s just fire off a couple of tac nukes at military targets in Belarus.

MARTIN: A strong Russian ally, but still…

KAPLAN: Yeah. Even though Belarus had nothing to do with the war game in question. And then the game was called to an end. Nobody wanted to play what happens next? And, you know, Rachel, this is the dangerous thing that we would be getting into. It’s interesting. People have been writing about nuclear strategy since a few weeks after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People have written out scenarios. Despite this, for decades, nobody has the slightest idea what would happen after one nuclear weapon is used. Even if there is the finest tuned intentions of keeping the war limited and not hitting population centers and so forth, the effects of nuclear weapons – what they can do to communication systems, to satellite perceptions, the probability of miscalculation, misperception, of things going generally awry – are much greater than any, you know, think tank board playing war game has ever been able to anticipate.

MARTIN: What I also hear you saying is that there’s almost an emotional or psychological quality. You can’t replicate it in a war game. That what it would take to actually push a button like that is something you can’t really know until you’re confronted with the real-world scenario.

KAPLAN: Right. I mean, on the one hand, maybe the sight of a mushroom cloud going up would just bring everybody to the table like, oh, my God, this line we’ve crossed is just horrendous. We’ve got to bring this thing to an end. Or maybe it would raise emotions like, we can’t let them get away with this. We have to respond in kind. And again, that’s why, when you’re talking about NATO or U.S. troops directly getting involved in this war, by which I mean, you know, sending troops, that is why Biden and every other leader of NATO is extremely cautious, much as they would like and much as they are in helping Ukraine in every other respect.

MARTIN: Fred Kaplan, national security correspondent at Slate and the author of “The Bomb: Presidents, Generals And The Secret History Of Nuclear War,” thank you so much for talking with us.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

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