More than 20 earthquakes have struck seismically active South Carolina since December and another pair struck within the last 48 hours. According to the USGS and the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), a 2.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Lugoff on Sunday at 2:27pm. At 4:05 am yesterday, a weak 0.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Dorchester County. That quake is the second to strike the Lowcountry this year; the first happened on January 9, when a 1.4 magnitude event unfolded.
According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), there are approximately 10-15 earthquakes every year in South Carolina, with most not felt by residents; on average, only 3-5 are felt each year. Most of South Carolina’s earthquakes are located in the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone. The two most significant historical earthquakes to occur in South Carolina were the 1886 Charleston-Summerville earthquake and the 1913 Union County earthquake. The 1886 earthquake in Charleston was the most damaging earthquake to ever occur in the eastern United States; it was also the most destructive earthquake in the U.S. during the 19th century.
No one is sure what’ll become of this steady stream of light earthquakes or whether or not something larger is looming. For now, the SCEMD has been sending out Tweets to the people of South Carolina encouraging them to be prepared for any disaster this year –earthquakes included.
“We don’t sleep for one night unless we think of eliminating our enemies. We will continue our endeavors for the victory of the Palestinian resistance day and night, for its victory, until the earth, sky, and sea become hell for the Zionists,” stresses Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who believed in the cause of Al-Quds, sacrificed on its fronts, paid the tax of perseverance in its path, and suffered from the scourge of the siege and international brutal sanctions for its sake.
Indeed, over the last four decades, Iran is still steadfast in its advocacy for Palestine as recommended by Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who always recommends defending Palestine as a legitimate and divine duty.
On International Quds Day, the Palestinians affirm that Hajj Qassem Soleimani was a pioneering devotee of Palestine, in word, deed, and sacrifices, dedicating his entire life for the sake of Palestine until its resistance has become strong and capable. Martyr Soleimani was a loyal and humble soldier, who loved Palestine, and his greatest concern was to support its steadfastness for his certainty that the Palestinians would preserve the cause and preserve their Arab and Islamic identity in the face of the Zionist colonial identity.
Staunch supporter of Palestinian harmony
Hajj Qassem was keen to receive the various Palestinian factions in Tehran, Beirut, and Damascus, regardless of their political identity and organizational affiliation as he had a remarkable role in connecting them with the Arab and Islamic depth. He remained confident that all good is in the cohesion of all parties to the axis of resistance. Further, he personally bore criticisms that accused him of overconfidence, to the extent that Sayyed Khamenei appreciated his sincere efforts, his patience, and certainty as he was able to heal the rift and unite the ranks of the Palestinian resistance.
Hajj Qassem proved that Iran does not differentiate in its support for the resistance between Sunnis and Shiites. He prioritized the Palestinian resistance to many other Shiite forces in Lebanon or Iraq and spared no efforts to extinguish the fire of sectarianism because he knew that the enemy was the one who ignites its flames to disperse the Muslims. In a speech in 2017, he says, “We do not help Palestine for the sake of the Shiites; we do not work at all with anyone because of being Shiite. 99% of the Palestinian people are Sunnis and we defend them.”
Martyr Qassem Soleimani realized the strength of the patient Palestinian people, so he did not fail them nor did he hesitate to meet their needs with salaries and aid. Plus, he has always personally received the wounded in Iranian hospitals, contributed to their treatment, and followed up on their medical conditions.
As for the Palestinian detainees, they were at the forefront of his priorities, and he received their messages, listened to their complaints, and worked with the Palestinian resistance forces to liberate them, improve their living conditions, and expedite their release in conjunction with the resistance forces to exchange.
Relentless support for the resistance
Hajj Qassem provided the Palestinian resistance with Iranian missiles, as well as the technology of their manufacture and development so that it would be able to be self-reliant, manufacture the missiles it needs on its own, and benefit from the raw materials available to it for the next war, which the Steel Dome cannot deter despite all its anti-war systems.
In addition to the missiles that played a major role in changing deterrence equations, Hajj Qassem Soleimani had a major role in the offensive tunnels weapon, as the Palestinian resistance, through the network of infrastructure tunnels that it established under the Gaza Strip, reached the enemy’s settlements to carry out advanced operations.
Hajj Qassem Soleimani believed that unity among Muslims was the only way to confront the enemies of the Islamic nation. Hence, he took a practical step toward strengthening unity among the Muslim ummah and drawing their attention to the first issue of the Islamic world, which is Palestine, despite the United States’ arrogant measures against him. Thus, he has honorably and deservedly earnt the name ‘Martyr of Al-Aqsa’.
European efforts to save the Vienna talks towards an Iran nuclear deal are being called “the last bullet”, writes Ahmed Mustafa. It will either be deadly or blank
Iran s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, right, welcomes the IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi for their meeting in Tehran (photos: AFP)
The European Union coordinator of negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Enrique Mora, visited Tehran this week with proposals to break the deadlock. Talks had stalled in mid-March after high hopes that a draft agreement would be signed.
The deal, made in 2015 between Iran and world powers, was to stop Iran developing its nuclear capabilities in return for easing Western and international sanctions on Tehran. In 2018, US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed even more sanctions. Last year the Biden administration started negotiations to rejoin the deal now that Iran had already stepped up its uranium enrichment, coming closer to weapons-grade stock.
EU signatories to JCPOA – the UK, France and Germany – are the main negotiators with Iran in Vienna as there have been no direct talks between the Iranian and American delegations. The remaining parties – Russia and China – are expected to help, but they are generally considered supporters of Iran.
The eighth round of the Vienna talks was set be the last and some sources have mentioned a 27-page draft document covering all outstanding issues. But Russia demanded a waiver against any provisions that might curtail its relations with Iran under JCPOA. Though the Russian demand was later loosened, the Iranians raised an issue the Americans say was not part of the negotiations. Tehran insists that Washington should lift the terror designations on Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The paramilitary organisation is a powerful arm of the ruling regime with vast business interests, and is the main force behind Iran’s proxy groups in neighbouring countries from Iraq and Lebanon to Yemen.
Even though the White House is keen on reviving the Iran deal, it finds the issue of the IRGC a thorny one. The Israelis and US allies in the Gulf are more than concerned. The Congress last week passed a non-binding measure stating that any nuclear agreement with Tehran should also address Iran’s support for terrorism in the region, and that the US should not lift sanctions on the IRGC. Despite the fact that President Biden does not need Congress approval to sign a return to the JCPOA, the bipartisan measure endorsed by a super-majority of senators is a signal to the White House for the upcoming mid-term elections. The ruling Democratic Party could lose any majority in Congress, both in the House and Senate.
That is why State Department Spokesman Ned Price said last week that the US is preparing equally for both a scenario where there is a mutual return to compliance with Iran on a nuclear deal, and one in which there is not an agreement. “Because a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is very much an uncertain proposition, we are now preparing equally for either scenario,” Price said. The Europeans are now taking the lead in trying to find a compromise, to prevent Vienna talks from faltering.
The war in Ukraine is a new concern pushing the EU to act, but it has also hardened the Iranian position, as Tehran tried to capitalise on the global energy crisis that the war aggravated. “The Iranians became emboldened by the war, the American need for more oil and the European need for more natural gas, as the US and the EU try to scale down their dependence on Russian energy supplies,” a veteran Western diplomat told Al-Ahram Weekly. Tehran thinks that the Europeans are between a rock and hard place. But that might be a delusion, as the diplomat notes: “Europe has other options to procure energy, replacing Russian imports. Anyone thinking that Brussels (EU) might pressure the Americans, especially for the sake of Iran’s interests, is probably dreaming.”
In an interview with the Financial Times this week, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell talked about a “middle way” to end the stalemate. He suggested that “the terror designation on the IRGC could be generally lifted, with specific parts of the organisation still on the list”, as the FT reported. That “specific part” of the Corps is the Al-Quds Brigade. But the problem is that the vast business and financial interests of the IRGC are inseparable from the brigade.
Hardliners in Iran see the situation now, especially with the war in Ukraine, as an opportunity to “demand the maximum”, as some analysts say. An Iranian lawmaker has called on the authorities to tell the people that the Vienna talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal will yield no results, according to a report on Iran International. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Bighash, who is a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said this week that “there is no news about the revival of JCPOA because it has reached a dead-end. Our differences with the United States and the Europeans are fundamental,” he noted, saying that “the Americans believe that we should give up our principles while we want them to give up their arrogant and bullying behaviour.”
But it is not true that the Vienna talks are dead, even if they have reached an impasse. “The efforts to revive the deal are not dead. These are just more of the same blockages that periodically appear but things continue to move forward, in fits and starts. Qatar’s emir is also visiting Tehran this week on his way to Europe to try to get the nuclear deal moving again. But we’re in a situation now, in light of the economic problems created by the Ukraine war, where the White House has more interest in making this happen sooner than Iran. So Iran will play it tough,” as Oxford University historian and political analyst Andrew Hammond told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Whether the Europeans manage to get Iran back to sign the prepared draft, tweaking the IRGC issue, is still in doubt. Iranians might be bargaining hard, but the harder they go the more likely the whole process to snap.
Iraq has blown past all the constitutional deadlines to form a government in the aftermath of its October 2021 parliamentary elections, the results of which initially threatened to upend Iraq’s system of sectarian kleptocracy.
Instead, seven months after the election, Iraq’s government formation talks appear to have reached a stalemate, with the most likely outcome now being a government that reflects the exact same power-sharing consensus that has shaped every Iraqi government since 2005, election results notwithstanding.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Tuesday Iran was delaying information about old undeclared nuclear sites, leading to a possible clash in a June meeting.
Iran and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had agreed a three-month plan on March 5for a series of exchanges for Iran to clarify remaining questions about uranium particles found in old sites kept secret from the IAEA. Following that process, the IAEA chief Rafael Grossi was supposed “to report his conclusion by the June 2022 (IAEA) Board of Governors” meeting, which begins on June 6.
However, Western diplomats have said there is little sign that Tehran has given satisfactory answers to the watchdog.
While not technically part of the nuclear deal, one issue causing tension and distrust between Tehran and the West had been Iran’s demand for the closure of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation into uranium particles found at three apparently old but undeclared sites.
Those sites suggest that Iran had nuclear material there that it did not declare to the agency.
Speaking to the EU parliament, Grossi said he remained extremely concerned by the situation and had told Iran that he found it difficult to imagine that the nuclear deal could be finalized if the IAEA had serious doubts about things that it should have known about.
“I am not trying to pass an alarmist message that we are at a dead end, but the situation does not look very good. Iran has not been forthcoming in the type of information we need from them,” Grossi told European Parliament committees via webstream.
It has been four years since Israel revealed it had stolen old nuclear archives from a warehouse near Tehran, renewing accusations that Iran was secretly developing plans to build nuclear weapons. The IAEA has been long trying to get a full explanation from Tehran after it was allowed an inspection of the sites and traces of radioactive material was found.
The EU’s Iran nuclear talks coordinator Enrique Mora arrives in Tehran on Tuesday in what he has described as the last bullet to save the diplomatic process to revie the 2015 nuclear deal, which also includes Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
The Iranian government still says it stands on its “red lines”and demands lifting of US sanctions not directly related to the nuclear dispute. Pundits in Iran are pessimistic over Mora’s chances of making a breakthrough in his visit to Tehran.
Western officials have largely lost hope that it can be resurrected, sources familiar with the matter said, forcing them to weigh how to limit Iran’s atomic program even as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has divided the big powers.
“We are, of course, still hopeful that some agreement is going to be reached within a reasonable time frame, although we have to recognise the fact that the window of opportunity could be closed any anytime,” Grossi said.
“Steps are now underway to Australia to ensure Australia has a workforce with the necessary skills, training and qualifications to build, operate, sustain, and [decommission] a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability,” Vice Adm. Mead noted.
Vice Adm. Mike Noonan, Chief of Royal Australian Navy, speaks at Sea Power 2022. (Colin Clark/Staff)
SYDNEY: While Navy leaders from more than 40 countries arrived at Sydney’s International Conference Center this week for Australia’s biggest naval conference, two of the largest Pacific nations — China and Russia — were obvious non-invites.
The invitations for those two nations from the Royal Australian Navy, which runs the Indo-Pacific Sea Power Conference, were “torn up,” as ABC put it. PLA representatives had attended in past years, but China’s trade strikes, interference in Australia’s elections and general bolshiness drove the RAN to drop them from the first Indo-Pacific Maritime show since COVID struck.
Noonan’s remarks made clear why the Chinese had not been invited this time.
He said the RAN will operate “as a force for good against tyranny, oppression and authoritarianism. The Royal Australian Navy will serve to represent our nation and the hopes we all share for a free liberal, stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific in our ambitions for peace, and for our mutual prosperity.”
As for Russia, Noonan didn’t name it, but he clearly addressed Putin’s perfidy in his address: “We will all observe around the world today the incredible suffering and violence — violations of international law — that none of us expected to see in 2022.”
The only navy program to have its own session, the AUKUS nuclear attack submarine, highlighted just how thin Australia’s nuclear expertise is and how much needs doing to ensure the country can manage the advanced technologies that a nuclear sub entails.
Vice Adm. Jonathan Mead, head of AUKUS task force, speaks at Sea Power 2022 in Sydney. (Colin Clark/staff)
Noonan said in a Q&A with reporters that the task force is paying close attention to the lessons of Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy in the United States. Rickover created a culture of openness and questioning, something at odds with much of what the Navy taught and trained to. Rickover also prized nuclear safety above all. His approach, and his commitment to engineering excellence, became the heart of American naval nuclear culture.
Vice Adm. Jonathan Mead, who heads the Australian task force overseeing the first 18 months of the AUKUS sub project, said he’s just returned from a tour of nuclear sub shipyards in America. And he spent a fair bit of his speech talking about safety.
“Australia’s decisions, both now and the task force and into the future, must reflect unwavering commitment to safe and secure stewardship of nuclear propulsion technology. This commitment, this nuclear mindset, must be part of our DNA,” Mead said. “Australia will have the highest safety and security standards as we build a nuclear powered submarine enterprise. This is a whole-nation effort first, which will generate opportunities for decades to come.”
Much of the rest of his remarks dealt with efforts to train military and civilians in things nuclear. Australia has a tiny number of nuclear trained personnel.
“Steps are now underway to Australia to ensure Australia has a workforce with the necessary skills, training and qualifications to build, operate, sustain, and [decommission] a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability,” Mead noted.
“We are working to strengthen the nuclear workforce in Australia. Scholarships have been offered to encourage more Australians to study nuclear science and engineering and as I speak, defense personnel, both military and non-uniform, are studying for a masters of nuclear science at Australia’s National University in Canberra, and a masters of nuclear engineering here in Sydney in New South Wales at the University of UNSW.”
Experts watching China’s rapid shipbuilding endeavors may have caught the first glimpse of the country’s new nuclear-powered submarine with the help of satellite images.
AllSource Analysis, a Colorado-based imagery intelligence company, said the superstructure of the as-yet unidentified vessel was visible for several days between the end of April and early May at Huludao Port in Liaoning, a province in northeast China.
Geospatial analysis of what the firm assesses was “a probable nuclear-powered fleet submarine” was under construction at a dry dock, according to a May 5 brief by analyst Chris Tomlinson, who used examined images from commercial satellite company Planet.
The submarine measures approximately 360 feet long and 32 feet across, Tomlinson found in his report. “A pair of forward control fins mounted on the vessel’s sail are observed. There was little evidence of large hatches along the smooth hull casing, except for two possible escape hatches.”
“At the vessel’s stern there was a cruciform rudder and aft control fin arrangement, with a possibly shrouded propulsion system,” he said, assessing the boat as possibly a new type of nuclear submarine.
This new Shang-class variant would “enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles,” the report said.
Clear images of submarines in dry dock are seldom seen in commercial satellite imagery, but it was unclear whether the boat in question was indeed a new model or “an upgrade of an existing vessel,” a Reuters report said on Tuesday.
Like Tomlinson, its report noted that parts of the submarine were shrouded by covers, making it difficult to confirm the existence of possible new vertical missile launch tubes and a new propulsion system.
Collin Koh, a maritime security analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Reuters it was “very hard to be sure” whether the images actually showed a new class of PLAN submarine, given the limited data available.
However, Koh noted “a great deal of interest” in the new type of “hunter-killer” submarine like the Type 093B predicted by the Defense Department, the report said. The researcher suggested the new Chinese submarines could use a quieter propulsion system, too.