New 3.6 earthquake felt before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

New 3.6 earthquake felt in South Carolina, strongest one in 8 years

This was the second stronger earthquake in the central South Carolina region Wednesday.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another earthquake has shaken much of the Midlands, just hours after another strong tremor rattled the area.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 3.6 magnitude quake struck at 7:03 p.m. Wednesday about 1.24 miles east of Elgin. It was at a depth of just a tenth of a mile, which is very close to the surface for an earthquake.

The USGS has confirmed two aftershocks, both at 7:22pm. One was 1.5 magnitude and the other was 1.8 magnitude. The two aftershocks happed at different times in the same minute.   

It was the seventh quake of the day. 

This week has seen 12 earthquakes. 

News19 has gotten reports of people feeling the earthquake throughout the central Midlands and up near the Charlotte area. At WLTX, we were on the air when the 3.6 quake took place and that moment was captured on-air.

Watch Below: The moment when the earthquake struck at News19 

The later tremor a bit stronger than the one that took place just hours earlier. The earlier one was a 3.5 magnitude quake that happened at 2:43 p.m. in an area 3.2 miles east of Elgin. The USGS shake map got well over 3,000 reports of people feeling it, with reports all across Richland, Kershaw, and Lexington Counties and has far north as Charlotte.  

The Kershaw County Emergency Management division says the power outages in the area were caused by the earthquake.  The earthquake triggered the switch plates which caused the power to blink off for a while. 

Three much smaller aftershocks also took place. 

Earthquakes happen throughout the state but most occur near the coast. Approximately 70 percent of earthquakes are in the coastal plain, with most happening in the Lowcountry. 

Back in 1886, Charleston was hit by a catastrophic earthquake. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.3, and was felt as far away and Cuba and New York. At least 60 people were killed, and thousands of building were damaged.

Structural damage extended hundreds of miles to cities in Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Geologists say that Charleston lies in one of the most seismically active areas in the eastern United States.

The Pakistani Horn Will Modernize Nuclear Arsenals In Worrying Trend: Revelation 8

A streak of light trails off into the night sky as the U.S. military test-fires an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, California, in 2017.
A streak of light trails off into the night sky as the U.S. military test-fires an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, California, in 2017.

June 12, 2022

Global Powers Likely To Bolster, Modernize Nuclear Arsenals In ‘Worrying Trend,’ Report Says

The nine nuclear-armed states, including the United States and Russia, are likely to grow and modernize their arsenal of warheads and to be more vocal about it in the coming decade in what is seen as a “worrying trend,” an influential think tank says in its latest annual study.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on June 13 in its annual report for 2022 that despite a marginal decline in the number of nuclear warheads last year, arsenals are expected to grow over the next 10 years.

“The nine nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and (North Korea) — continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals and although the total number of nuclear weapons declined slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, the number will probably increase in the next decade,” SIPRI said.

“There are clear indications that the reductions that have characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War have ended,” said Hans Kristensen, associate senior fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Wilfred Wan, director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, said that “all of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies.”

“This is a very worrying trend,” he added.

SIPRI estimated that nuclear states had a total inventory of 12,705 warheads at the start of 2022, of which about 9,440 were in military stockpiles ready for potential use.

It said an estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed on missiles and aircraft, with about 2,000 being kept in a state of high operational alert — almost all of them belonging to Russia or the United States.

Total U.S. and Russian warhead inventories continued to decline in 2021, but SIPRI added that this was mainly due to the dismantling of warheads that had been retired from military service in past years.

The two powers hold an estimated 90 percent of all nuclear weapons, SIPRI said.

It said that as of January 2022, the United States had 1,744 deployed warheads out of a total inventory of 5,428.

Russia had 1,588 deployed warheads out of a total inventory of 5,977.

The other seven nuclear-armed states are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced intentions to do so, with China specifically in the middle of a substantial expansion of its nuclear arsenal.

Neighbors and bitter rivals Pakistan (165 total inventory) and India (160) have similarly sized arsenals, according to SIPRI.

The European Horn’s endless expansion threatens nuclear holocaust: Revelation 16

NATO stabbing the world (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

NATO’s endless expansion threatens endless war — and potential nuclear holocaust

As NATO’s military footprint expands far beyond Europe to confront China, the planet’s survival is in doubt

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the arms industry that depends on it for billions in profits, has become the most aggressive and dangerous military alliance on the planet. Created in 1949 to thwart Soviet expansion into Eastern and Central Europe, it has evolved into a global war machine in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

NATO expanded its footprint, violating promises to Moscow, once the Cold War ended, to incorporate 14 countries in Eastern and Central Europe into the alliance. It will soon add Finland and Sweden. It bombed Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. It launched wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, resulting in close to a million deaths and some 38 million people driven from their homes. It is building a military footprint in Africa and Asia. It invited Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, the so-called “Asia Pacific Four,” to its recent summit in Madrid at the end of June. It has expanded its reach into the Southern Hemisphere, signing a military training partnership agreement with Colombia, in December 2021. It has backed Turkey, with NATO’s second largest military, which has illegally invaded and occupied parts of Syria as well as Iraq. Turkish-backed militias are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds and other inhabitants of north and east Syria. The Turkish military has been accused of war crimes — including multiple airstrikes against a refugee camp and chemical weapons use — in northern Iraq. In exchange for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s permission for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, the two Nordic countries have agreed to expand their domestic terror laws making it easier to crack down on Kurdish and other activists, lift their restrictions on selling arms to Turkey and deny support to the Kurdish-led movement for democratic autonomy in Syria.

It is quite a record for a military alliance that with the collapse of the Soviet Union was rendered obsolete and should have been dismantled. NATO and the militarists had no intention of embracing the “peace dividend,” fostering a world based on diplomacy, a respect of spheres of influence and mutual cooperation. It was determined to stay in business. Its business is war. That meant expanding its war machine far beyond the border of Europe and engaging in ceaseless antagonism toward China and Russia. 

NATO sees the future, as detailed in its “NATO 2030: Unified for a New Era,” as a battle for hegemony with rival states, especially China, and calls for the preparation of prolonged global conflict.

“China has an increasingly global strategic agenda, supported by its economic and military heft,” the NATO 2030 initiative warned. “It has proven its willingness to use force against its neighbors, as well as economic coercion and intimidatory diplomacy well beyond the Indo-Pacific region. Over the coming decade, China will likely also challenge NATO’s ability to build collective resilience, safeguard critical infrastructure, address new and emerging technologies such as 5G and protect sensitive sectors of the economy including supply chains. Longer term, China is increasingly likely to project military power globally, including potentially in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

U.S. and NATO antagonism have turned Russia — rich in natural resources — and China — a manufacturing and tech behemoth — into close allies. That was a potentially disastrous error.

The alliance has spurned the Cold War strategy that made sure Washington was closer to Moscow and Beijing than Moscow and Beijing were to each other. U.S. and NATO antagonism have turned Russia and China into close allies. Russia, rich in natural resources, including energy, minerals and grains, and China, a manufacturing and technological behemoth, are a potent combination. NATO no longer distinguishes between the two, announcing in its most recent mission statement that the “deepening strategic partnership” between Russian and China has resulted in “mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order that run counter to our values and interests.” 

On July 6, Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, and Ken McCallum, director general of Britain’s MI5, held a joint news conference in London to announce that China was the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security.” They accused China, like Russia, of interfering in U.S. and U.K. elections. Wray warned the business leaders they addressed that the Chinese government was “set on stealing your technology, whatever it is that makes your industry tick, and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”

This inflammatory rhetoric presages an ominous future.

One cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The political and social turmoil in the U.S., coupled with its diminishing economic power, has led it to embrace NATO and its war machine as the antidote to its decline.

Washington and its European allies are terrified of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meant to connect an economic bloc of roughly 70 nations outside U.S. control. The initiative includes the construction of rail lines, roads and gas pipelines that will be integrated with Russia. Beijing is expected to commit $1.3 trillion to the BRI by 2027. China, which is on track to become the world’s largest economy within a decade, has organized the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trade pact of 15 East Asian and Pacific nations representing 30 percent of global trade. It already accounts for 28.7 percent of the Global Manufacturing Output, nearly double the 16.8 percent of the U.S. 


Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.


China’s rate of growth last year was an impressive 8.1 percent, although slowing to around 5 percent this year.  By contrast, the U.S. growth rate in 2021 was 5.7 percent — its highest since 1984 — but is predicted to fall below 1 percent this year, by the New York Federal Reserve.

If China, Russia, Iran, India and other nations free themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network financial institutions use to send and receive information such as money transfer instructions, it will trigger a dramatic decline in the value of the dollar and a financial collapse in the U.S. The huge military expenditures, which have driven the U.S. debt to $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the entire U.S. GDP, will become untenable. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military in 2021 — $801 billion, which amounted to 38 percent of total world expenditure on the military — than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined. The loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will force the U.S. to slash spending, shutter many of its 800 military bases overseas and cope with the inevitable social and political upheavals triggered by economic collapse. It is darkly ironic that NATO has accelerated this possibility.

Russia, in the eyes of NATO and U.S. strategists, is the appetizer. Its military, NATO hopes, will get bogged down and degraded in Ukraine. Sanctions and diplomatic isolation, the plan goes, will thrust Vladimir Putin from power. A client regime that will do U.S. bidding will be installed in Moscow.

NATO has provided more than $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine, while the U.S. has committed nearly $54 billion in military and humanitarian assistance to the country.

China, however, is the main course. Unable to compete economically, the U.S. and NATO have turned to the blunt instrument of war to cripple their global competitor. 

The provocation of China replicates the NATO baiting of Russia.

NATO expansion and the 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Kyiv led Russia to first occupy Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, with its large ethnic Russian population, and then to invade all of Ukraine to thwart the country’s efforts to join NATO. 

The same dance of death is being played with China over Taiwan, which China considers part of Chinese territory, and with NATO expansion in the Asia Pacific. China flies warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone and the U.S. sends naval ships through the Taiwan Strait which connects the South and East China seas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May called China the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, citing its claims to Taiwan and efforts to dominate the South China Sea. Taiwan’s president, in a Zelenskyy-like publicity stunt, recently posed with an anti-tank rocket launcher in a government handout photo.

The conflict in Ukraine has been a bonanza for the arms industry, which, given the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, needed a new conflict. Lockheed Martin’s stock prices are up 12 percent. Northrop Grumman is up 20 percent. The war is being used by NATO to increase its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe. The U.S. is building a permanent military base in Poland. The 40,000-strong NATO reaction force is being expanded to 300,000 troops. Billions of dollars in weapons are pouring into the region.

The conflict with Russia is backfiring: The ruble has soared to a seven-year high, Europe is barreling toward recession, and sanctions on Russian goods are creating havoc in world markets and a humanitarian crisis in Africa.

The conflict with Russia, however, is already backfiring. The ruble has soared to a seven-year high against the dollar. Europe is barreling toward a recession because of rising oil and gas prices and the fear that Russia could terminate supplies completely. The loss of Russian wheat, fertilizer, gas and oil, due to Western sanctions, is creating havoc in world markets and a humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East. Soaring food and energy prices, along with shortages and crippling inflation, bring with them not only deprivation and hunger, but social upheaval and political instability. The climate emergency, the real existential threat, is being ignored to appease the gods of war.

The war makers are frighteningly cavalier about the threat of nuclear war. Putin warned NATO countries that they “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if they intervened directly in Ukraine and ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on heightened alert status. The proximity to Russia of U.S. nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey mean that any nuclear conflict would obliterate much of Europe. Russia and the United States control about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads, with around 4,000 warheads each in their military stockpiles, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

President Biden has warned that the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be “completely unacceptable” and “entail severe consequences,” without spelling out what those consequences would be. This is what U.S. strategists refer to as “deliberate ambiguity.” 

The U.S. military, following its fiascos in the Middle East, has shifted its focus from fighting terrorism and asymmetrical warfare to confronting China and Russia. Barack Obama’s national-security team in 2016 carried out a war game in which Russia invaded a NATO country in the Baltics and used a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon against NATO forces. Obama officials were split about how to respond. 

A Princeton war simulation that begins with Russia firing a nuclear “warning shot” ends with 90 million dead within a few hours.

“The National Security Council’s so-called Principals Committee — including Cabinet officers and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — decided that the United States had no choice but to retaliate with nuclear weapons,” Eric Schlosser writes in The Atlantic. “Any other type of response, the committee argued, would show a lack of resolve, damage American credibility, and weaken the NATO alliance. Choosing a suitable nuclear target proved difficult, however. Hitting Russia’s invading force would kill innocent civilians in a NATO country. Striking targets inside Russia might escalate the conflict to an all-out nuclear war. In the end, the NSC Principals Committee recommended a nuclear attack on Belarus — a nation that had played no role whatsoever in the invasion of the NATO ally but had the misfortune of being a Russian ally.” 

The Biden administration has formed a Tiger Team of national security officials to run war games on what to do if Russia uses a nuclear weapon, according to the New York TimesThe threat of nuclear war is minimized with discussions of “tactical nuclear weapons,” as if less powerful nuclear explosions are somehow more acceptable and won’t lead to the use of bigger bombs. 

At no time, including the Cuban missile crisis, have we stood closer to the precipice of nuclear war. 

“A simulation devised by experts at Princeton University starts with Moscow firing a nuclear warning shot; NATO responds with a small strike, and the ensuing war yields more than 90 million casualties in its first few hours,” the New York Times reported.

The longer the war in Ukraine continues — and the U.S. and NATO seem determined to funnel billions of dollars of weapons into the conflict for months if not years — the more the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Flirting with Armageddon to profit the arms industry and carry out the futile quest to reclaim U.S. global hegemony is at best extremely reckless and at worst genocidal.

The South Korean Horn Emerges As Nuclear Front Line in U.S. Rivalry with China and Russia

Korea Emerges As Nuclear Front Line in U.S. Rivalry with China and Russia

By Tom O’Connor On 7/11/22 at 1:10 PM EDT

As the United States’ rivalry with China and Russia simmers across the globe, an old flashpoint threatens to erupt on the Korean peninsula, where unresolved tensions have re-emerged and the specter of nuclear war remains ever-present.

Since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, the United Nations Security Council, including permanent members China, Russia and the U.S., has unanimously adopted 10 resolutions condemning such military activities and supporting international sanctions against the country officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This unity was shattered for the first time on May 26 when Beijing and Moscow vetoed Washington’s proposal to punish Pyongyang for recent missile tests.

The stalemate mirrored the recent failed attempts by the U.S. and its allies at the U.N. to condemn Russia for the war it launched on Ukraine three months earlier. President Joe Biden’s administration has attempted to sway China away from Russia, but an even bigger geopolitical competition between Beijing and Washington has only served to reinforce the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two top rivals of the U.S.

The result has been a breakdown of decades of diplomacy seeking to bring peace to one of the first, deadliest conflicts of the Cold War, with factions forming along familiar lines — a “Northern Triangle” consisting of China, North Korea and Russia on the one hand, and a “Southern Triangle” made up of Japan, South Korea and the United States on the other.

A South Korean official, speaking to Newsweekon the condition of anonymity, said strained ties between the U.S. and China “always have a negative impact on inter-Korean rapprochement and also the denuclearization issue,” but that recent events reveal that an even deeper crisis has arisen.

“Very clearly, we see the U.N. Security Council doesn’t work after Ukraine, and China doesn’t support any more sanctions against the DPRK,” the South Korean official said. “That’s a huge disaster for the DPRK nuclear issue and even inter-Korean relations.”

And while ridding North Korea of its prized nuclear weapons remains the official aim of the U.S. and South Korea, the South Korean official worried that war in Europe and a worsening geopolitical struggle for influence in Asia may have set this goal back irreversibly, especially as Russia’s incursion came nearly three decades after Kyiv agreed to return Soviet-era nuclear weapons deployed on Ukrainian soil in exchange for security assurances from Moscow.

“Definitely, from the Ukraine situation, we fear North Korea will never give up their nuclear weapons,” the official said. “And then also it caused some Chinese calculations when the U.S. put more pressure on China on economic, security and national sovereignty issues.”

While much attention has been given to the question of Taiwan, the South Korean official argued that when it comes to security concerns, Beijing may view the neighboring Korean peninsula in a similar fashion as Moscow does its western flank in Eastern Europe, saying that there is “some kind of situation like Ukraine and Russia” as the U.S. gets more involved.

So if tensions continue to escalate, the official said, “China has more willingness to take some control over the Korean peninsula.”A missile is fired during a joint training between the United States and South Korea on June 6 along South Korea’s east coast as part of a response to North Korea’s missile launches a day earlier. Getty Images/Dong-A Daily/South Korean Ministry of National Defense

North Korea has always maintained unique relationships with China and Russia, the two nations who supported it during the 1950s Korean War against South Korea, which received support from the U.S. and the U.N. The conflict was among the first to test the viability of the U.N. less than two years after it came into existence, and saw the first direct fighting between U.S. troops and those of the newly-established People’s Republic of China (PRC) in a three-year war that ended without peace for the two Koreas.

Washington and Beijing would overcome tensions to establish diplomatic relations in 1979, and with the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the conflict became seen as frozen to observers across the globe, even if it remained vivid to residents of the peninsula.

Any complacency that may have been generated collapsed when North Korea demonstrated its nuclear prowess against the wishes of even China and Russia. Repeated attempts at denuclearization-for-peace dialogue repeatedly unraveled, as recently as two years ago. Then-President Donald Trump and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in made historic inroads with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, but Pyongyang reverted to hostility after talks ultimately broke down, leaving little room for engagement.

“We’ve tried to knock on North Korea’s door. We don’t have any hidden agenda, just saying, ‘Let’s talk,'” another South Korean official, who also asked not to be named, told Newsweek. “Even after the recent missile fire, which of course we condemn in the strongest terms, we have never shut the door for diplomacy and dialogue.”

While conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has sought to break with his liberal predecessor’s peace-first approach to inter-Korean ties, the new administration has continued to seek talks and offer assistance without conditions, according to both South Korean officials.

“North Korea should really think this through and take up our offer for dialogue,” the second South Korean official said. “War is not an option; the only way forward is diplomacy.”

But in the absence of any breakthrough, Seoul is investing in its own national defense capabilities like never before. These include new missile systems that South Korean troops have showcased, sometimes in joint maneuvers with the U.S., in response to North Korea’s recent uptick in missile activity that both U.S. and South Korean officials suspect to be the prelude to a seventh nuclear test.

There has even been discussion in South Korea about the country obtaining its own nuclear weapons, or at least deploying those of the U.S., as was the case throughout much of the Cold War. Popular support for obtaining such weapons of mass destruction has steadily increased in recent years, hitting some 71% in a poll published by the Chicago Council on February 21, three days before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Though the issue remains a topic of debate for Seoul, there is a consensus on the threat posed by Pyongyang’s own increasingly advanced arsenal, especially as Kim set out to develop not only larger platforms, but smaller, tactical ones that could pose an even more immediate danger to South Korea.

“The North Korea nuclear threat is imminent; it’s there at our doorstep,” the second South Korean official said. “We really want to deal with this.”

And while that official said it may be South Koreans who are most “directly affected” by the issue, the official argued that, “at the same time, it is also everyone’s problem.”

“It’s China’s problem, it’s Russia’s problem,” the second official added. “That’s what we try to convey to our neighbors, to the international community.”

Should Beijing and Moscow continue this trend of blocking the U.S.-led push for even more stringent measures against Pyongyang, the second South Korean official said he felt that they “will feel the pressure from other countries involved with the issue.”North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un walks flanked by top officials in front of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile ahead of his country’s fourth and latest ICBM test on March 24.Korean Central News Agency

But China and Russia have long resisted outside pressure to change their stance, and the divisive state of international affairs that has emerged since the war in Ukraine began has only forced Western and Eastern blocs further apart. Both two countries see an impending end of an era in which the U.S. could impose its dominance over the international security order.

This schism, however, has not stopped the U.S. from appealing to China for support in attempting to denuclearize North Korea.

“We have repeatedly made clear that we will cooperate with the PRC where we can,” a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek, “and we remain committed to seeking cooperation with the PRC on DPRK issues.”

Amid a flurry of engagements between top officials from Beijing and Washington this year, Chinese special representative on Korean peninsula affairs Liu Xiaoming met with U.S. special representative for North Korea Sung Kim on April 5 in Washington. In this meeting, the State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. side “emphasized that the United States and the PRC have a very important shared interest in maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

“Beijing shares the goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the spokesperson added, “and S/R Kim looks forward to working with Liu and his colleagues in Beijing to make progress toward that goal.”

Hopes for cooperation between the two leading world powers in this area were also conveyed by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during his meeting last month in Geneva with Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi. A Biden administration official told reporters at the time that Sullivan “made very clear that we believe this is an area where the United States and China should be able to work together.”

But the senior administration official also said the U.S. side “raised concerns” regarding China’s recent voting record on the issue at the U.N., and these concerns were echoed by the State Department spokesperson with whom Newsweek spoke.

“The DPRK’s ballistic missile launches are a clear violation of UNSCRs prohibiting the DPRK’s ballistic missile development,” the spokesperson said. “The unprecedented number of DPRK ballistic missile launches this year and the instability they bring to the Korean Peninsula are in no one’s interest.”

“We continue to urge the PRC and Russia to fully and completely fulfill their obligations under the DPRK UN Security Council resolutions that the UN Security Council unanimously adopted,” the spokesperson added.

The Biden administration was also pushing for China to crack down on other areas of its relationship with North Korea.

“Beijing can also do more to combat the DPRK’s sanctions evasion efforts in PRC coastal waters, to repatriate North Korean laborers earning income in its territory, and to shut down procurement networks,” the spokesperson said.

For China, it remains paramount to maintain security along the border across which the People’s Liberation Army fought the largest war in the country’s history under Communist Party rule.

And Chinese officials see this as a mutual goal among nations.

“China always believes that to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization on the Peninsula is in the shared interest of all parties and the international community,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, told Newsweek.

“We hope all parties concerned will stay calm, work in the same direction, refrain from moves or rhetoric that may be perceived as provocative, and jointly advance the process of political settlement of the issues on the Korean Peninsula,” Liu Pengyu added.Chinese Type 055-class destroyer Nanchang is seen bearing the flags of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army Navy on its port side and the flag of the Russian Federation on its starboard side, as Type 052D-class destroyer Kunming and Type 054A-class frigate Binzhou follow during a joint patrol with the Russian Navy in the western Pacific Ocean in a photo published October 26.Russian Ministry of Defense

Both China and Russia have called on the U.S. to ease sanctions on North Korea, rather than tighten them. Since 2019, as U.S.-North Korea peace talks began to fall apart, the two powers have put forth a draft resolution of their own, one would that would remove bans preventing North Korea from exporting goods such as statues, seafood and textiles, and would raise a cap on importing refined petroleum.

These measures were billed as necessary to ease the burden on North Korean civilians at a time when the country was going through severe economic hardships that have been noted by Kim in high-profile speeches and meetings.

With the U.N. at a standstill, however, Beijing and Moscow have also shored up their military cooperation, including most recently a series of joint drills in the Pacific, just two days before their Security Council veto in May, and just as Biden was in the region on a visit to meet the leaders of South Korea and Japan.

The U.S. and its allies sought to rally efforts to counter China and Russia during recent summits held by the G7 and NATO, where the threat posed by North Korea was also discussed among member states.

In a statement issued last week, the North Korean Foreign Ministry dismissed the display as an “anti-DPRK row of the hostile forces” that coincided “with the start of the RIMPAC joint military exercises, the U.S.-led multinational naval combined exercises, and south Korea’s military lunacy to destroy peace and stability in the Korean peninsula as well as the Asia-Pacific region through the largest-ever scale dispatch of its naval force.”

The statement also detailed an alleged plot to open two fronts against China and Russia, echoing language used by the two countries, who regularly accuse the U.S. of destabilizing the international order through military expansion and the formation of powerful alliances.

“The recent NATO summit more clearly proves that the U.S. pursues a plan to contain Russia and China at the same time by realizing the ‘militarization’ of Europe and forming a military alliance like NATO in the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said, “and keeps the U.S.-Japan-south Korea tripartite military alliance as an important means for materializing the plan.”

The ministry also warned that the “reckless actions of the U.S. and its vassal forces” had created a “dangerous situation, in which a nuclear war might break out simultaneously in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.”

“World peace and security came to be placed in the most critical condition after the end of the Cold War,” the statement added.

A more recent article published Monday by the North Korean Foreign Ministry tied the threat directly to trilateral security cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, who agreed last month to resume joint exercises, and held another session of talks Sunday, just as South Korea’s military reported a new salvo of artillery fire from North Korea.

Ri Ji Song, a researcher at North Korea’s Society for International Politics Study, warned in the article that, “if the large-scale joint military exercises are to be conducted defiantly on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity with nuclear strategic assets of the U.S. being involved, it will trigger off due countermeasures of ours.”

“And this will, in turn,” Ri added, “create a touch-and-go situation in which even a small conflict can [lead] to a nuclear war easily.”

Antichrist’s rivals fear mass demonstrations. His supporters do too

Sadr’s rivals fear mass demonstrations. His supporters do too

Sadrist leaders are hinting that mass prayers on Friday could escalate into violence, and it is not clear if the cleric himself is really in control of his own movement anymore

Five years ago, an order was passed through a vast crowd of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square: storm the Green Zone, it said.

That February day, the fortified neighbourhood, where the majority of diplomatic missions and government offices reside, was under threat like never before.

The Sadrists had gathered in the capital’s centre to make demands ahead of Iraq’s 2018 local elections.

Eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye that tens of thousands of unarmed Sadrists rushed across the al-Jumhuriya and al-Sinak bridges towards the Green Zone like they were hypnotised. But a heavy hail of bullets and tear gas fired by security forces quickly turned the crossing into a suicide mission.

That did not dissuade the Sadrists, who advanced in groups for the next two hours. “Whenever a group of them fell after being hit by bullets, the next group took their place,” a Sadrist who was leading one of the charges recalled.

Supporters of the Sadrist movement at a demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on 11 February, 2017 (AFP)
Supporters of the Sadrist movement at a demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 11 February 2017 (AFP)

With the situation worsening every minute, news began to filter from Sadr City, the impoverished eastern Baghdad neighbourhood that makes up Sadr’s stronghold, that Sadrists were being encouraged to take out their light and medium-range weapons and proceeded to the Green Zone to join their comrades.

On the two bridges, the situation was bloody. Security sources said that 14 were killed, including security forces, and more than 400 wounded. 

Then a new command came down from the Shia cleric: “Tactically withdraw until further notice.”

“The situation was terrifying, and had it not been for Sadr’s timely intervention, everyone would have drowned in pools of blood,” a Sadrist military commander told MEE.

‘If 100,000 demonstrators surrounded the parliament building and demanded the resignation of the MPs, who would stand in their way?’

– aide to Muqtadr al-Sadr

“Sadr City is a huge arms depot, and our men do not stop to think twice before they use weapons. Herein lies the danger in dealing with them.”

Fast-forward to July 2022, and such a bloody confrontation threatens to rear its head once again.

Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance won the most recent round of parliamentary elections in October, but his Iranian-backed rivals have thwarted his political project at every turn, prompting him to announce his political retirement and have all 73 of his MPs resign their seats.

Those resignations upended Iraqi politics, and ever since senior Sadrist leaders have been promoting a scenario similar to February 2017 as Sadr’s next move.

“If 100,000 demonstrators surrounded the parliament building and demanded the resignation of the MPs, who would stand in their way?” a prominent Sadr aide told MEE.

“The current parliament has no father, and we do not think that any of the Iraqi forces or armed factions will defend an illegitimate parliament.

“Sadr will not let [his rivals] form a government. The parliament lost its legitimacy after the withdrawal of the largest bloc, and it is no longer representative of the people, so it must be dissolved.”

Unified prayer and show of strength

Sadrist leaders say they want one thing – the dissolution of parliament. That could be done by a third of the MPs requesting it and calling for early elections, or more resignations. It can also be ordered by the Supreme Judicial Council on the grounds of “exceeding constitutional terms”.

Sadrists insist protests and sit-ins will break out and continue as long as this parliament continues, and one date looms in particular.

Sadr has called for a unified prayer on 15 July to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the first Friday prayer held by his father, the renowned late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr. Many fear this could be the start of mass protests.

Leaders close to Sadr say he is not openly discussing his plans with aides and allies. Yet Sadrist leaders in Baghdad and the south have been mobilised and instructed to make sure all human and financial resources are available to ensure as many worshippers as possible participate on Friday.

Iraq: How doomed deal with Barzani led to Muqtada al-Sadr’s downfallRead More »

Political leaders and observers say this clearly reveals that Sadr is betting on using the number of participants to his advantage somehow.

Sadrists charged with organising the prayer have moved between provinces and met dozens of tribal leaders over the past two weeks, urging a huge turnout and the backing of Sadr.

In response, hundreds of buses have been rented to transport worshippers from the central and southern governorates to Baghdad, Sadrist leaders involved in the preparations told MEE.

Sadrists say a sit-in at the Green Zone’s gates after the prayer is likely. Storming the district is also possible, they said.

“It will not be just a prayer. Sadr wants the number of participants to be millions. It is a show of strength more than anything else,” a prominent Sadrist leader involved in preparations told MEE.

“This prayer will show how many people reject the current political process and have been alienated from it.”

‘A wounded lion’

Iraqi politics has been paralysed for eight months. After the October election, Sadr formed an alliance with the largest Sunni and Kurdish blocs and attempted to form a government that placed Iranian-backed groups in opposition.

This flew in the face of custom followed since 2003, in which all parties are represented in government. Enraged, Sadr’s opponents successfully managed to block his government-formation process through a series of procedural and illegal interventions.

That included Federal Supreme Court rulings that helped block the nomination of a president, and even missile attacks on his Kurdish allies.

Sadr’s failure to protect the interests of his partners and the absence of coordination between the leaders of the Sadrist-Sunni-Kurdish alliance also contributed to the collapse of the political project and the cleric’s ultimate withdrawal, political leaders and diplomats told MEE.

Publicly, Sadrist leaders have framed the resignations as a “thoughtful and planned” decision. Yet once the Sadrist MPs were replaced – mostly by Iranian-backed ones – on 23 June, the discourse took a sharp turn.

Where once, Sadrist speech touted a “victorious ascetic” line, where power has been abandoned by Sadr’s own free will, now language of a “wounded victor” robbed of victory and honour began to be broadcast.

The decision to withdraw began to look increasingly like an emotional one.

A poster of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr and his son Muqtada al-Sadr is pictured in the Sadr City district of Baghdad (Reuters)
A poster of the late Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Sadiq al-Sadr and his son Muqtada al-Sadr is pictured in the Sadr City district of Baghdad (Reuters)

Though Sadr no longer has any MPs, he still controls about half of government positions – including the premiership. But it’s expected that he could lose all of them within six months of a new government being formed, one of Sadr’s aides told MEE.

The aide said Sadr will not allow his opponents to form a government under any circumstances, and that the cleric and his movement’s leaders now see the dispute as personal, as well as political.

“If they succeed in forming the government, everything will be over and they will control everything, including the position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” the aide said.

“Regardless of any other considerations, Sadr is currently wounded. They hurt him and made him feel that he is an outcast and that he does not represent the Shia and does not deserve to lead them.

“Can you imagine what a wounded lion would do? This is how Sadr feels right now.”

Who is managing the crisis?

Sadr has not appeared in the media or said a word publicly since meeting his MPs at his al-Hanana residence in Najaf on 15 June, the day they resigned en masse, where he justified his withdrawal by saying he would not work with “the corrupt” in any way.

However, a few days later, his private office issued two statements that reflected a different position.

The first was released on 22 June, on the eve of the extraordinary parliamentary session to replace the resigned MPs, and the second was issued a week later, when the two Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), began a round of negotiations to agree on their presidential candidate. According to the political convention adopted by Iraqi political forces since 2003, the president must be a Kurd.

In the first statement, Sadr said Iran had not pressured him to withdraw, but what he termed “its proxies” did by intimidating independent MPs and non-Shia parliamentary blocs to prevent the formation of a majority government.

‘Can you imagine what a wounded lion would do? This is how Sadr feels right now’

– Aide to Muqtada al-Sadr

Sadr asked his former Kurdish and Sunni allies to stand up against “Iran’s arms” and prevent them from forming a power-sharing government as they wanted – a puzzling request for many considering it was the cleric himself who abandoned their goal of creating a majority government together.

In the second statement, Sadr accused Barham Salih, the incumbent president and the most prominent PUK presidential candidate, of supporting normalisation with Israel, as he did not sign the law criminalising relations passed by parliament last month.

The accusation nearly ended Salih’s political career and has placed a veto on him holding any future top office, political leaders and negotiators told MEE.

Both statements have been widely perceived as an attempt by Sadr to influence political events and are inconsistent with his alleged withdrawal.

Meanwhile there have been a series of stutters, plans unfulfilled and retreats that raise questions over what is really going on in Sadr’s office, and who exactly is in charge.

Sadr has essentially holed himself up in his Najaf home, refusing any visitors that are not Sadrists. There was some talk of him travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or to Beirut, yet he never left.

Meanwhile senior Sadrists known for their devotion and inclination towards violence – such as Jalil al-Nouri and Abu Mustafa al-Hamidawi, the leader of Saraya al-Salam, Sadr’s armed wing – have been making escalatory and direct threats against his Shia rivals.

Iraq: Muqtada al-Sadr blames ‘Iran’s proxies’ for withdrawal from parliamentRead More »

Has Sadr now retreated from his promise to disengage from politics? Does he support the violent threats and promise of armed confrontations trumpeted by some of his leaders? Or has he truly withdrawn, and all Sadrist moves since are efforts by his men to reduce their losses, absorb supporters’ anger and justify his resignation decision?

Three Sadrist leaders, one of whom is close to Sadr, told MEE that uncertainty still surrounds everything related to the MPs’ resignations, and the whole Sadrist operation is confused with a total lack of information about what Sadr’s next step will be.

Two of them said Sadr is refusing to talk publicly about the political crisis but is aware of everything his men are doing and saying.

Yet his silence is reflecting negatively on his leaders, who are increasingly divided between those pushing for violent confrontation and others who believe political solutions are the best way to restore the movement’s previous status.

“The situation is very worrying. We are afraid that things will get out of hand and reach the point where there is no option to retreat,” a prominent Saraya al-Salam leader told MEE.

“The Sadrists are known for their impulsiveness and courage. We are not afraid of fighting and we will not back down, but the idea of going into battle without a plan B or a certain ceiling to stop at seems very frightening.

“Some Sadrist leaders want to exploit the current situation to control the movement, thus pushing towards confrontation. These men are now very close to Sadr and we fear that he will be subject to their influence.”

International concern

Millions of Iraqis are supporters of Sadr, and in Saraya al-Salam he boasts one of Iraq’s largest Shia armed factions.

He is one of only a handful of men who can organise wide-scale mass demonstrations and sit-ins that can paralyse life in Baghdad and the Shia-dominated provinces. He has the ability to ratchet up tensions to a dangerous degree.

For the international community, the destabilisation of Iraq’s security is one of its greatest concerns, western diplomats and Iraqi officials told MEE.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has placed huge pressure on the world’s energy sector and contributed to the cost of living crisis in several countries, with the West urging Middle Eastern countries to increase oil supply.

Meanwhile, the faltering negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal continue, and there is renewed hope an end to the Yemen war can be reached.

So “there is no room for opening a new front in Iraq, whatever the reasons,” a Baghdad-based western ambassador told MEE.

“The US, UK and the countries of the European Union are all concerned. Iraq is one of the biggest oil-exporting countries, and its security and political stability is important to all of us, especially now,” the ambassador said.

It’s far more concerning having Sadr outside the political process than inside it, the ambassador added, “so we think bringing him back is the best solution”.

A member of Saraya al-Salam, Sadr's military wing, stands guard in Baghdad's Sadr City (AFP)
A member of Saraya al-Salam, Sadr’s military wing, stands guard in Baghdad’s Sadr City (AFP)

Various diplomats, US officials and Iraqi politicians said Iraq is far from the Biden administration’s priority at the moment, so it has essentially been left to European countries to coordinate with Iraqi political forces and fix the situation.

Over the past two weeks, Baghdad has witnessed several meetings between western ambassadors and the leaders of the Iranian-backed Shia Coordination Framework political alliance that has been Sadr’s greatest rival.

The media office of Hadi al-Amiri, a top Framework leader, acknowledged that he has met the ambassadors of France, Germany, Italy and Australia during this period.

One solution proposed “to drag Sadr back into the political process and ensure that he will not attack the next government or cause any trouble” is to find a prime minister that enjoys the cleric’s support, one of the European ambassadors told MEE.

“There are not many options available now, and it seems clear to us that everyone, including the US and Iran, does not have a clear plan or proposal for a solution,” they added.

“Sadr’s opponents’ rush to replace the resigned MPs has further complicated the scene. The crisis must be dealt with peacefully, as destabilising the security scene in Iraq is not an option, whatever the reasons.”

Sadr’s opponents are still confused

Sadr’s opponents, especially the Iranian-backed forces, inherited about 50 seats after replacing the Sadrist MPs following the mass resignation.

Now with 130 of the 329 seats, the Coordination Framework alliance is the largest bloc and has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form the government.

Yet despite quickly accepting the seats vacated by Sadr, the Framework has become more circumspect about its next moves. 

There is concern that Sadr could react viciously to a new government, and the international community could decide it does not legitimately represent the Iraqi people. That fear has slowed the cabinet-formation process, reduced the parties’ options and deepened their divisions, several Framework leaders told MEE.

The list of issues that the Framework parties have no consensus on is nearly endless. No one is in agreement about how the Iran-backed groups should respond if Sadr’s supporters begin vast demonstrations against them, or what their relationship with Sadr should look like.

Meanwhile there are divides over what the next government should look like, for how long it will serve, its relationship with the international community, and the nature of its ties to the Shia religious authorities in Najaf.

‘The crisis must be dealt with peacefully, as destabilising the security scene in Iraq is not an option, whatever the reasons’

– European diplomat

Various names have been publicly put forward for the next prime minister, but none of them has been seriously discussed, as the Shia parties have not yet agreed on what qualifications and political affiliations the next PM should have.

And as for continuing the delicate balancing act of relations between Iran and the United States, there are strong opinions on that too. Also discussed in heated fashion is the issue of protecting Iraqi funds abroad, and how to deal with Sadr’s erstwhile Kurdish and Sunni allies.

The inability to agree on any of these topics is straining the relationships of Coordination Framework leaders, several of them told MEE.

Most prominently, perhaps, is the breakdown in Shia political leaders Amiri and Nouri al-Maliki’s relationship. Already it is very tense, with the two disagreeing over how to deal with Sadr.

Amiri tends to appeal to Sadr’s confidence in him and seek a middle ground. Maliki instead urges confrontation.

Framework sources said Maliki and Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq armed faction, were responsible for the alliance quickly accepting Sadr’s withdrawal and replacing his MPs. Now that is seen as a move that has blocked ways to bring Sadr back and cool the situation.

But the relationship between Maliki and Khazali is also subject to ups and downs, with both men competing to be the most prominent figure in the Shia political scene.

Khazali is very ambitious, and believes the withdrawal of Sadr and powerful Shia paramilitary Kataeb Hezbollah from the political scene has provided him with a golden opportunity to dominate parliament and the next government.

The first test of Coordination Framework leaders in the post-Sadr era was the appointment of a deputy parliament speaker to replace Hakim al-Zamili, an outgoing Sadrist. It quickly descended into gridlock.

Maliki’s State of Law party, Khazali’s Sadiqoon and the Sinad bloc led by Ahmed al-Asadi are all trying to put their man in the position.

Iraq: Once again, Muqtada al-Sadr stirs up the entire political system

A prominent Coordination Framework leader close to Iran traces the alliance’s woes back to the parties’ lacklustre performance in the October elections.

“First, let us admit that our losses were horrific. The resignation of the Sadrists returned the balance of power and brought us back to the forefront of the political scene in an unexpected and unbelievable way,” the leader said.

“The result, as happy as it was, is worrying and confusing, because no one has a clear plan for the next step. The leaders of the Coordination Framework were united by fear of Muqtada, and he separates them now.”

The leader believes his colleagues are yet to learn their lesson.

“They don’t want to understand that the current political system is faltering and this may be our only chance left to reform it, and that we don’t have time for more political adolescence.”

Several Shia leaders said neither Amiri, Khazali, nor even Maliki want Shia-on-Shia fighting, and everyone is seeking a solution that satisfies all parties.

“We do not expect Sadr to resort to armed confrontation. He will resort to demonstrations first, and as long as these demonstrations remain peaceful, we have no problem,” a political leader close to Maliki told MEE.

“If the issue is to preserve his share of positions in the new government, and to give him the necessary guarantees that his men within the old government will not be affected, then this can be agreed upon.”

Armed conflict is another matter, he warned. Any violence will be met with violence.

“Except for this, there is still an opportunity for many solutions.”

NATO’s endless expansion threatens endless war: Daniel 7

NATO stabbing the world (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

NATO’s endless expansion threatens endless war — and potential nuclear holocaust

As NATO’s military footprint expands far beyond Europe to confront China, the planet’s survival is in doubt

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the arms industry that depends on it for billions in profits, has become the most aggressive and dangerous military alliance on the planet. Created in 1949 to thwart Soviet expansion into Eastern and Central Europe, it has evolved into a global war machine in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

NATO expanded its footprint, violating promises to Moscow, once the Cold War ended, to incorporate 14 countries in Eastern and Central Europe into the alliance. It will soon add Finland and Sweden. It bombed Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. It launched wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, resulting in close to a million deaths and some 38 million people driven from their homes. It is building a military footprint in Africa and Asia. It invited Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, the so-called “Asia Pacific Four,” to its recent summit in Madrid at the end of June. It has expanded its reach into the Southern Hemisphere, signing a military training partnership agreement with Colombia, in December 2021. It has backed Turkey, with NATO’s second largest military, which has illegally invaded and occupied parts of Syria as well as Iraq. Turkish-backed militias are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds and other inhabitants of north and east Syria. The Turkish military has been accused of war crimes — including multiple airstrikes against a refugee camp and chemical weapons use — in northern Iraq. In exchange for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s permission for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, the two Nordic countries have agreed to expand their domestic terror laws making it easier to crack down on Kurdish and other activists, lift their restrictions on selling arms to Turkey and deny support to the Kurdish-led movement for democratic autonomy in Syria.

It is quite a record for a military alliance that with the collapse of the Soviet Union was rendered obsolete and should have been dismantled. NATO and the militarists had no intention of embracing the “peace dividend,” fostering a world based on diplomacy, a respect of spheres of influence and mutual cooperation. It was determined to stay in business. Its business is war. That meant expanding its war machine far beyond the border of Europe and engaging in ceaseless antagonism toward China and Russia. 

NATO sees the future, as detailed in its “NATO 2030: Unified for a New Era,” as a battle for hegemony with rival states, especially China, and calls for the preparation of prolonged global conflict.

“China has an increasingly global strategic agenda, supported by its economic and military heft,” the NATO 2030 initiative warned. “It has proven its willingness to use force against its neighbors, as well as economic coercion and intimidatory diplomacy well beyond the Indo-Pacific region. Over the coming decade, China will likely also challenge NATO’s ability to build collective resilience, safeguard critical infrastructure, address new and emerging technologies such as 5G and protect sensitive sectors of the economy including supply chains. Longer term, China is increasingly likely to project military power globally, including potentially in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

U.S. and NATO antagonism have turned Russia — rich in natural resources — and China — a manufacturing and tech behemoth — into close allies. That was a potentially disastrous error.

The alliance has spurned the Cold War strategy that made sure Washington was closer to Moscow and Beijing than Moscow and Beijing were to each other. U.S. and NATO antagonism have turned Russia and China into close allies. Russia, rich in natural resources, including energy, minerals and grains, and China, a manufacturing and technological behemoth, are a potent combination. NATO no longer distinguishes between the two, announcing in its most recent mission statement that the “deepening strategic partnership” between Russian and China has resulted in “mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order that run counter to our values and interests.”

On July 6, Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, and Ken McCallum, director general of Britain’s MI5, held a joint news conference in London to announce that China was the “biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security.” They accused China, like Russia, of interfering in U.S. and U.K. elections. Wray warned the business leaders they addressed that the Chinese government was “set on stealing your technology, whatever it is that makes your industry tick, and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market.”

This inflammatory rhetoric presages an ominous future.

One cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The political and social turmoil in the U.S., coupled with its diminishing economic power, has led it to embrace NATO and its war machine as the antidote to its decline.

Washington and its European allies are terrified of China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meant to connect an economic bloc of roughly 70 nations outside U.S. control. The initiative includes the construction of rail lines, roads and gas pipelines that will be integrated with Russia. Beijing is expected to commit $1.3 trillion to the BRI by 2027. China, which is on track to become the world’s largest economy within a decade, has organized the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest trade pact of 15 East Asian and Pacific nations representing 30 percent of global trade. It already accounts for 28.7 percent of the Global Manufacturing Output, nearly double the 16.8 percent of the U.S.


Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.


China’s rate of growth last year was an impressive 8.1 percent, although slowing to around 5 percent this year. By contrast, the U.S. growth rate in 2021 was 5.7 percent — its highest since 1984 — but is predicted to fall below 1 percent this year, by the New York Federal Reserve.

If China, Russia, Iran, India and other nations free themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network financial institutions use to send and receive information such as money transfer instructions, it will trigger a dramatic decline in the value of the dollar and a financial collapse in the U.S. The huge military expenditures, which have driven the U.S. debt to $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the entire U.S. GDP, will become untenable. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military in 2021 — $801 billion, which amounted to 38 percent of total world expenditure on the military — than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined. The loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency will force the U.S. to slash spending, shutter many of its 800 military bases overseas and cope with the inevitable social and political upheavals triggered by economic collapse. It is darkly ironic that NATO has accelerated this possibility.

Russia, in the eyes of NATO and U.S. strategists, is the appetizer. Its military, NATO hopes, will get bogged down and degraded in Ukraine. Sanctions and diplomatic isolation, the plan goes, will thrust Vladimir Putin from power. A client regime that will do U.S. bidding will be installed in Moscow.

NATO has provided more than $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine, while the U.S. has committed nearly $54 billion in military and humanitarian assistance to the country.

China, however, is the main course. Unable to compete economically, the U.S. and NATO have turned to the blunt instrument of war to cripple their global competitor.

The provocation of China replicates the NATO baiting of Russia.

NATO expansion and the 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Kyiv led Russia to first occupy Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, with its large ethnic Russian population, and then to invade all of Ukraine to thwart the country’s efforts to join NATO. 

The same dance of death is being played with China over Taiwan, which China considers part of Chinese territory, and with NATO expansion in the Asia Pacific. China flies warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone and the U.S. sends naval ships through the Taiwan Strait which connects the South and East China seas. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May called China the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, citing its claims to Taiwan and efforts to dominate the South China Sea. Taiwan’s president, in a Zelenskyy-like publicity stunt, recently posed with an anti-tank rocket launcher in a government handout photo.

The conflict in Ukraine has been a bonanza for the arms industry, which, given the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, needed a new conflict. Lockheed Martin’s stock prices are up 12 percent. Northrop Grumman is up 20 percent. The war is being used by NATO to increase its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe. The U.S. is building a permanent military base in Poland. The 40,000-strong NATO reaction force is being expanded to 300,000 troops. Billions of dollars in weapons are pouring into the region.

The conflict with Russia is backfiring: The ruble has soared to a seven-year high, Europe is barreling toward recession, and sanctions on Russian goods are creating havoc in world markets and a humanitarian crisis in Africa.

The conflict with Russia, however, is already backfiring. The ruble has soared to a seven-year high against the dollar. Europe is barreling toward a recession because of rising oil and gas prices and the fear that Russia could terminate supplies completely. The loss of Russian wheat, fertilizer, gas and oil, due to Western sanctions, is creating havoc in world markets and a humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East. Soaring food and energy prices, along with shortages and crippling inflation, bring with them not only deprivation and hunger, but social upheaval and political instability. The climate emergency, the real existential threat, is being ignored to appease the gods of war.

The war makers are frighteningly cavalier about the threat of nuclear war. Putin warned NATO countries that they “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if they intervened directly in Ukraine and ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on heightened alert status. The proximity to Russia of U.S. nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey mean that any nuclear conflict would obliterate much of Europe. Russia and the United States control about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads, with around 4,000 warheads each in their military stockpiles, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

President Biden has warned that the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be “completely unacceptable” and “entail severe consequences,” without spelling out what those consequences would be. This is what U.S. strategists refer to as “deliberate ambiguity.”

The U.S. military, following its fiascos in the Middle East, has shifted its focus from fighting terrorism and asymmetrical warfare to confronting China and Russia. Barack Obama’s national-security team in 2016 carried out a war game in which Russia invaded a NATO country in the Baltics and used a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon against NATO forces. Obama officials were split about how to respond. 

A Princeton war simulation that begins with Russia firing a nuclear “warning shot” ends with 90 million dead within a few hours.

“The National Security Council’s so-called Principals Committee — including Cabinet officers and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — decided that the United States had no choice but to retaliate with nuclear weapons,” Eric Schlosser writes in The Atlantic. “Any other type of response, the committee argued, would show a lack of resolve, damage American credibility, and weaken the NATO alliance. Choosing a suitable nuclear target proved difficult, however. Hitting Russia’s invading force would kill innocent civilians in a NATO country. Striking targets inside Russia might escalate the conflict to an all-out nuclear war. In the end, the NSC Principals Committee recommended a nuclear attack on Belarus — a nation that had played no role whatsoever in the invasion of the NATO ally but had the misfortune of being a Russian ally.”

The Biden administration has formed a Tiger Team of national security officials to run war games on what to do if Russia uses a nuclear weapon, according to the New York TimesThe threat of nuclear war is minimized with discussions of “tactical nuclear weapons,” as if less powerful nuclear explosions are somehow more acceptable and won’t lead to the use of bigger bombs. 

At no time, including the Cuban missile crisis, have we stood closer to the precipice of nuclear war. 

“A simulation devised by experts at Princeton University starts with Moscow firing a nuclear warning shot; NATO responds with a small strike, and the ensuing war yields more than 90 million casualties in its first few hours,” the New York Times reported.

The longer the war in Ukraine continues — and the U.S. and NATO seem determined to funnel billions of dollars of weapons into the conflict for months if not years — the more the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Flirting with Armageddon to profit the arms industry and carry out the futile quest to reclaim U.S. global hegemony is at best extremely reckless and at worst genocidal.

U.N. to review reports of torture carried outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

U.N. to review reports of torture carried out by the Palestinian government

The Committee against Torture will convene from July 12-29 to consider reports on torture of civilians and POWs carried out by the Palestinian government

Matan Kogen 

July 12, 2022

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talks to reporters at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah in June. 

For the first time, a United Nations committee focused on addressing torture will scrutinize the actions of the Palestinian Authority and its treatment of those under its care.

The U.N. Committee against Torture (CAT) — a subsidiary of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) — convenes today in Geneva, where it will investigate instances of enforced disappearances, violent interrogations and the holding of the remains of Israeli soldiers, among other issues. In addition to investigating the Palestinian Authority, the committee will also probe Botswana, Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates.

CAT, which holds broad powers to probe incidents of torture and cruel treatment, is expected to review reports submitted by American, Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, the Palestinian Coalition Against Torture, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Clinic on International Human Rights and others. 

“We welcome the fact that for the first time ever the Palestinian Authority will come under scrutiny at the United Nations for its record on torture,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization based in Geneva, told Jewish Insider.

In preparation for the session and in accordance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (from which CAT derives its authority), the Palestinian Authority (PA) was required to submit a report of its current adherence to the convention. 

The PA begins its report by reiterating its territorial claim to the Gaza Strip, with the caveat that it is not responsible for the actions of the Hamas-led government that controls the area. “The Gaza Strip is legally subject to the authority of the State of Palestine and the actions taken by Hamas there since [2007] are inadmissible and illegal in the eyes of the Government of the State of Palestine,” the report reads. 

In response to the claim, Joe Truzman, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI, “Hamas rules Gaza, that’s pretty much it.” He continued, “Even though [Palestinian Authority officials] say Gaza is theirs, I think they just… they say it because they want to make it appear that they have power in the enclave, but they don’t — they barely do.”

A July 5 meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh in Algeria, Truzman suggested, might indicate attempts at reconciliation. However, he said, “There’s still a long way to go. There’s a lot of grievances and a lot of obstacles to overcome before that even happens. There are efforts there, but it’s not happening anytime soon.”

As U.N. Watch notes in its alternative report on torture in the Palestinian state — which CAT will also consider — aside from initially placing blame for Gaza’s dire economic problems upon Hamas, the Palestinian report makes no mention of the treatment by Hamas’ or the PA of those within its territory, including Gaza. Instead, the Palestinian report is focused largely on calling out Israel for ill treatment. The report also omits Palestinian human rights abuses, such as the PA’s 2021 assassination of Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat.

“Regrettably, the Palestinians’ own report to the U.N. committee seeks to waste its time by attacking Israel, omitting critical information about their own record, when the review is supposed to be about the Palestinians,” said Neuer. “This is a pattern at the U.N. whenever the Palestinians are reviewed, they try to deflect attention from their systematic abuse and oppression of their own people, and their antisemitic policies and practices targeting Israeli Jews.”

Asked about the potential for future investigations of Palestinian human rights abuses, Truzman said, “There’s a huge lack of detail and information on Palestinian abuses…. I still haven’t figured out why. Now, some say, ‘Oh, it’s because the U.N. has an anti-Israel agenda,’ some say, ‘[…]they’re just being lazy.’ It’s tough to say but… it’s just [that] the U.N. has a track record of not doing — I think — their due diligence when it comes to the Palestinian side of the conflict and their potential abuses. So I’m not hopeful to see more of it, just because of their history.”

The PA report was initially due in 2015, but was not submitted until 2019 — a delay not addressed in the report. 

CAT works closely with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), which has a mandate to investigate torture and abuses of human or civil rights on the ground. Because the PA is a party to the Optional Protocol, SPT will have the authority to investigate reports of torture and other abuses on the ground.

CAT’s concluding observations, in which they will outline their recommendations for reform, are expected to be released on or about July 29.