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

Living on the Fault Line
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the  amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial  rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or  auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.

Salman Rushdie Denies the Iranian Horn

Salman Rushdie off ventilator and ‘road to recovery has begun,’ agent says

Sun, August 14, 2022, 6:41 AM

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) -Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was stabbed repeatedly at a public appearance in New York state on Friday, 33 years after Iran’s then-supreme leader called for him to be killed, is off a ventilator and his health is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday.

“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”

Rushdie, 75, was set to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on the importance of the United States as a haven for targeted artists when police say a 24-year-old man rushed the stage and stabbed him.

The Indian-born writer has lived with a bounty on his head following the publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” which is viewed by some Muslims as containing blasphemous passages. In 1989 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for his assassination.

Writers and politicians around the world have condemned the attack. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Iranian state institutions had incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media had gloated about the attempt on his life.

“This is despicable,” Blinken said in a statement. “The United States and partners will not waver in our determination to stand up to these threats, using every appropriate tool at our disposal.”

The suspect in the stabbing, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance on Saturday, his court-appointed lawyer, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.

Neither local nor federal authorities have offered any additional details on the investigation, including a possible motive.

An initial law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Shi’ite extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to NBC New York. The IRGC is a powerful faction that Washington accuses of carrying out a global extremist campaign.

Rushdie was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, for treatment after the attack.

Following hours of surgery, he had been put on a ventilator and was unable to speak as of Friday evening, Wylie had said in a prior health update, adding that he would likely lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.

One of Rushdie’s sons said on Sunday that his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator.

“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie wrote on Twitter.

Authorities in Iran have made no public comment about the attack, although hardline state media outlets have celebrated it with headlines including “Satan has been blinded” and some Iranians voiced support online for the stabbing.

Many other Iranians expressed their sympathies for Rushdie, however, posting on social media about their anger at the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers for issuing the 1989 fatwa that told Muslims to kill the author.


Iranian organizations, some linked to the government, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as recently as 2019 that the edict remained “irrevocable.”

Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s license on him.

Witnesses said Matar did not speak as he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.

Rushdie was stabbed 10 times, prosecutors said during Matar’s arraignment, according to the New York Times.

Prosecutors said in court that Matar traveled by bus to the Chautauqua Institution, an educational retreat about 12 miles (19 km) from the shores of Lake Erie, and bought a pass that admitted him to Rushdie’s lecture, the Times reported. Attendees said there were no obvious security checks.

Matar was the son of a man from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, according to Ali Tehfe, the town’s mayor. Matar’s parents emigrated to the United States, where he was born and raised, the mayor said, adding he had no information on their political views.

Tehfe told Reuters on Sunday that Matar’s father had returned to Lebanon several years ago, and after word of Rushdie’s stabbing spread he had locked himself in his Yaroun home and was refusing to speak to anyone.

The Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah holds significant sway in Yaroun, where posters of Khomeini and slain IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2020, adorned walls at the weekend.

A Hezbollah official told Reuters on Saturday that the group had no additional information on the attack on Rushdie.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Maya Gebeily in Beirut and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Russian Horn Touts of Superior Nukes: Revelation 16

Ignoring Ukraine setbacks, Putin touts ‘superior’ Russian weapons exports

August 15, 20222:05 PM PDTLast Updated 8 hours ago

LONDON, Aug 15 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia was ready to sell advanced weapons to allies globally and cooperate in developing military technology, nearly six months into the Ukraine war in which his army has performed worse than expected.

With its forces beaten back from Ukraine’s two biggest cities and making slow headway at heavy cost in eastern provinces, the war has so far proved an unconvincing showcase for Russia’s arms industry.

But Putin, addressing an arms show outside Moscow, insisted Russian weaponry was years ahead of the competition.

Russia cherished its strong ties with Latin America, Asia and Africa and was ready to supply allies there with a full gamut of weapons from small arms to armoured vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and drones, he said. “Almost all of them have been used more than once in real combat operations.”

He said Russia’s offer included high-precision weapons and robotics. “Many of them are years, or maybe decades ahead of their foreign counterparts, and in terms of tactical and technical characteristics they are significantly superior to them.”

Russia ranks second only to the United States with arms sales of around $15 billion a year, nearly a fifth of the global export market. From 2017-2021, 73% of those sales went to just four countries – India, China, Egypt and Algeria – according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Western military analysts said Russia’s struggles against a much smaller adversary in Ukraine could undermine Putin’s sales pitch.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend the international military-technical forum Army-2022 at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in the Moscow region, Russia August 15, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

“With the collapse of economic relations with the West, Russia is even more dependent on the arms trade than it was before, so it’s not surprising that Putin is so keen to promote them to as many non-Western customers as he can,” said Ruth Deyermond, senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

“The big problem for him is that Russia’s war against Ukraine has been a disaster for Russian military credibility – their performance has been a very poor advertisement for their weapons.”

Asked which Russian weapons systems had performed worst in Ukraine, retired U.S. General Ben Hodges cited assessments by U.S.defence officials that Russia was suffering failure rates as high as 60% for some of its precision-guided missiles.

Western sanctions imposed against Russia also raised questions about its ability to source components and provide maintenance for the weapons it sells, added Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe.

“I’d be very concerned as a prospective buyer about the quality of the equipment and the ability of the Russian Federation industry to sustain it,” he said.

Ukraine has made effective use of U.S.-supplied weaponry, especially the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), and Russia has taken a series of major blows. These include explosions at an airbase in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula last week that destroyed at least eight aircraft on the ground, according to satellite images.

Nevertheless, Putin said the forces of Russia and its proxies in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine were fulfilling all their tasks.

“Step by step they are liberating the land of Donbas,” he said.

Russia calls the invasion that began on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to demilitarise its smaller neighbour and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of waging an unprovoked war to capture territory.

Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Chief writer on Russia and CIS. Worked as a journalist on 7 continents and reported from 40+ countries, with postings in London, Wellington, Brussels, Warsaw, Moscow and Berlin. Covered the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Security correspondent from 2003 to 2008. Speaks French, Russian and (rusty) German and Polish.

Antichrist Supporters Opposing Iran Expand Protests To Dissolve Parliament

Supporters of Iraq's influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during a rally  (August 2022)

Sadrist Iraqis Opposing Iran Expand Protests To Dissolve Parliament

Following a call by Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to extend the scope of protest rallies, several government offices in Baghdad were besieged by his supporters on Sunday. 

Thousands of al-Sadr’s followers prayed outside parliament on Friday in a show of support for the populist leader, who has given a “final ultimatum” to Iran-backed Shiite groups and called on the judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week. The judiciary has said it does not have the authority to do so.

Supporters of rival Iraqi factions have been on the streets of Baghdad since Friday to call for a new government, with supporters of Sadr — who seeks to curb the influence of the Islamic Republic in Iraqi politics — demanding early elections and his Iran-backed opponents saying the results of last October’s poll should be honored. 

While supporters of the Sadrist movement have occupied the fortified Green Zone, which houses parliament, government buildings and foreign embassies, the proponents of the Coordination Framework — a coalition of Shiite parties close to Tehran – have held a rally in one of Baghdad’s streets. 

The protests in the green zone are a show of force by the firebrand cleric whose party won the highest number of seats in the October 2021 elections but withdrew after failing to form a government with Sunni and Kurdish allies in Iraq’s hectic power-sharing system. Iran-backed parties have dominated many state institutions for years. 

Last Friday, August 5, thousands of protesters from Iraq’s southern provinces entered Baghdad’s Green Zone again, chanting slogans against Iran’s interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

We Are Crossing Red Lines to Nuclear War

Crossing Red Lines to Nuclear War

Now that the pomp and glory of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is over, and China has held military exercises surrounding Taiwan, what has been achieved other than further worsening of US-China relations?

The crumbling of the current world order is like an earthquake disaster.  Initially everything looked fine, then cracks and tremors begin to appear, and events accelerate until the actual earthquake occurs with massive devastation. 

The difference between earthquakes and war is that the latter is human-induced and should in theory be avoidable. The Thucydides Trap is less about whether Great Powers will fight and more about whether it is avoidable. History has rewarded heroes when they win wars, but has seldom praised statesmen who have avoided wars.

History will debate whether the Ukraine war was avoidable.  So far, it is a non-nuclear war because Russia warned NATO not to provoke a nuclear situation.  NATO at least understands that the Cold War, fought between 1946-1991, did avoid nuclear war.  Both sides understood that nuclear war was MAD (mutually assured destruction).   There were lots of proxy wars, such as the Korean war, where the Soviets pushed China to do the fighting, or Afghanistan, where the US financed Islamist forces to wear down the Soviet forces.  The Cuban missile crisis was defused when the Russians agreed to remove missiles from Cuba, provided the Americans removed missiles from Turkey.  Both sides decided to back down from each other’s “red lines”, the crossing of which would escalate beyond either side’s control.  

The American economist who had the most influence on shaping understanding of nuclear options was Thomas C. Schelling (1931-2016). His Nobel laureate lecture “An Astonishing Sixty Years: The Legacy of Hiroshima” reminds us how lucky and rational we were so far in avoiding nuclear escalation. Schelling’s great attribute was to apply intellectual rigour and common sense to very uncomfortable questions. He thought through the unthinkable. A leading game theorist, he understood that all human decisions are interdependent, contingent upon someone else’s behaviour, the most common being “tit for tat”.

But common sense at the individual level does not always work at the global level.  Married couples who want a divorce can appeal to a court for independent judgement.  Great Powers cannot appeal to any higher court, not even the United Nations, because they have the veto over any ruling. Thus the only global rule is that Great Powers must reach understandings with each other and not cross each other’s red lines, beyond which they will clash.  

In a unipolar world where the hegemon power can enforce order, there is what economists call “equilibrium”. But as Schelling warned, equilibrium is only a result of balance, but when the unipolar order fragments into a multi-polar order or disorder, you can get “far-from-equilibria” results. Biden’s “Build Back Better” seeks to get back to a semblance of unipolar position, but having crossed Russia’s red line over Ukraine, war has broken out, but it is contained so far because it is a proxy war where only the Ukrainians are doing the dying, whilst NATO provides the arms. But if emotions get too high, attacking nuclear plants can also escalate to a nuclear conflagration which cannot be contained.

Pelosi’s trip to some extent has already crossed China’s red line, which is about One-China including Taiwan, not “One China, One Taiwan”.  China has just published its White Paper on Taiwan which spells out China’s Red Line on Taiwan.  

What we face today is a situation that until recently, few dreamt would be possible – that the US and its allies may be crossing two red lines and engage in a two-front war at the same time. It is no longer fantasy to imagine that a third front could break out in the Middle East with Israeli/Palestinian tension.

Schelling’s warning was that “nuclear weapons, once introduced into combat, could not, or probably would not, be contained, confined or limited.”   In other words, if non-nuclear options cannot arrive at mutually accepted conclusion or decision, nuclear options would be used.   If warring parties are not willing to negotiate, then escalation would rise inevitably to a nuclear option.  

The only solution to this is to shift radically away from brinkmanship and avoid playing the current game of chicken, namely, who blinks first. When the leading military power is no longer assured of winning on all fronts, (and that is still a big “if”), it is the insecurity that creates conditions for chaos. Once the United States move away from “constructive ambiguity” to certainty of action, such as legally committed to go to war on Taiwan, then she becomes hostage to Taiwan acting recklessly or even accidentally to provoke war in which recent US war games show that the losses for everyone are horrendous.

The rational game does not have stable equilibria (as solutions) when emotions run higher and higher because both sides, civilians and the military, cannot predict how the other would behave and therefore pre-empt losses by engaging in first strikes.  The UN Secretary General was correct in warning nuclear powers to commit to “no-first-use” policy.  No peace process is possible without all nuclear powers sitting down to discuss how to de-escalate the present situation,     

As Schelling understood, the only way out of this nuclear conundrum is for Big Powers to rebuild trust and agree to disagree, including appreciating how not to cross each other’s red lines.   Interdependent decision-making requires self-restraint by the major players.  But the way the current media is fanning emotions, no leader can afford to look weak to his domestic audience. Hence, “tit-for-tat” means escalation until eventually, red lines will be crossed, not by intention, but by abstention.  

Perilous times need statesmen who are not absent from the big decisions of our times.  Democracy assumes that great leaders will emerge with great wisdom to fulfil the will of the people.  But if the will of the people is misled into mutual Armageddon, then instead of the dialogue of the deaf, we may have the swan song of the dead.  

Contributed by 

Andrew Sheng


Antichrist’s aide warns of continuous attempts to divide power in Iraq

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds a press conference in Najaf, Iraq on November 18, 2021 [Karar Essa/Anadolu Agency]

Sadr aide warns of continuous attempts to divide power in Iraq

August 14, 2022

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr holds a press conference in Najaf, Iraq on November 18, 2021 [Karar Essa/Anadolu Agency]

August 13, 2022 at 11:55 am 

During Friday Khotba, an imam close to Shia religious cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr warned of the continuous attempts to divide power in Iraq, news agencies reported.

For the second Friday, Al-Sadr supporters have been camping inside the Green Zone, the compound for government offices and foreign embassies, protesting the premiership nomination by the rival alliance of Iran-backed parties – the Coordination Framework.

“You will not break Iraq as long as Sadr is here,” the imam told the crowd from a big stage outside Parliament. “There is no going back from this revolution, and the people will not give up their demands.”

After the October elections, Al-Sadr’s party emerged as the largest winner but failed to form a government. His MP resigned and called for the dissolution of the newly-elected Parliamentinstead of passing the task of forming the government to another party.

Al-Sadr’s imam reiterated that the protesters are there to draw the features of the next stage for the country, stressing that this would only be through “revolutionary and peaceful democratic early elections.”

READ: Sadr calls for parliament to be dissolved within a week

On Twitter, Al-Sadr called for his followers to maintain “peaceful protests” and reiterated that the protests aimed to “fight corruption.”

Al-Sadr refuses to deal with current politicians as part of his plan to fight corruption, wanting new faces in the political spectrum.

“Our hands are extended to the people, not to the leaders, in an attempt to reform the corruption,” Al-Sadr wrote.

The inter-Shia power struggle has left Iraq in political limbo and exacerbated the economic crisis.

The impasse, now in its 10th month, is the longest in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion that destroyed the country.

Antichrist calls on Iraqis to stage million-man protest

Ali Al Safi (left), 35, travelled from the southern province of Thi Qar to serve the protesters with food.  All photos: Sinan Mahmoud/The National

Moqtada Al Sadr calls on Iraqis to stage million-man protest

Cleric says Baghdad demonstration would be ‘end of the last chance’ for reform

Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has called on Iraqis to join a million-man demonstration in Baghdad in what he called the “end of the last chance” for reform.

Iraq has sunk into a political deadlock since October’s national elections. Political rivalry, mainly among Shiite parties, has prevented consensus over forming a new government.

Mr Al Sadr wants to dissolve Parliament and hold snap elections, while his Iran-backed rivals, the Co-ordination Framework, seek the leading role in forming government.

Ali Al Safi (left), 35, travelled from the southern province of Thi Qar to serve the protesters with food. All photos: Sinan Mahmoud/The National 

Both camps have staged sit-in protests inside and outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, home to key government offices, the parliament building, politicians’ homes and foreign embassies.

“I count on you,” Mr Al Sadr told Iraqis through a statement issued by his close aide Salih Mohammed Al Iraqi on Saturday.

He said the demonstration, on a date yet to be announced, will be to “support Iraq for the sake of reform and to save what is left from it in order not to be an easy target for corruption, injustice, militias and authoritarian corrupt parties”.

“I see your courage and hope not to be let down by you. It is the end of the last chance,” the statement added.

Mr Al Sadr called on Iraqis to converge at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in a “united, peaceful and million-man demonstration” and then to cross the bridge to the Green Zone to join his followers who have been encamped around the parliament building for the past three weeks.

In a bid to increase pressure on his rivals, Mr Al Sadr on Wednesday asked the Supreme Judiciary Council to dissolve Parliament by the end of the coming week and set a date for early elections or face unspecific consequences.

The Iraqi constitution requires a vote passed by an absolute majority to dissolve Parliament, and that vote can only be requested by a third of lawmakers or by the prime minister with the president’s approval.

But Mr Al Sadr says the judiciary can consider his request because Parliament has missed the constitutional deadlines for appointing a new president and prime minister after an election. He also asked his supporters to file lawsuits over the issue with the Supreme Federal Court.

On Sunday, the Supreme Judiciary Council rejected the request.

“We agree with Al Sadr in diagnosing the negative reality of the political situation the country is going through and the continuous constitutional violations,” the Council said in statement.

But, “the Council has no power to dissolve the Council of Representatives,” it said.

Although a political grouping endorsed by Mr Al Sadr emerged from the elections with the largest number of MPs — 73 seats in the 329-seat parliament — it failed to form a majority government with other leading Sunni and Kurdish parties. Their short-lived alliance attempted to keep the Co-ordination Framework out of the government formation.

But the Framework — an umbrella group that consists of Tehran-allied militias and political parties — along with some smaller parties not directly aligned to Tehran, derailed Mr Al Sadr’s efforts.

He ordered his MPs to resign last month after a series of legal challenges and parliamentary boycotts — combined with alleged intimidation tactics — prevented parliament from electing his bloc’s candidates for president — a vital step in government formation.

The resignations put the Framework in pole position to form the government. Mr Al Sadr rallied his supporters his objections when the Framework nominated Shiite politician Mohammed Shia Al Sudani for the role of prime minister.

In a new escalation, the Framework launched counter-protests on Friday outside the Green Zone and an open-ended sit-in pressing for a new government to be formed quickly to end months of deadlock.

Both camps, who command heavily armed militias, also organised protests in some provinces in a show of force.

The political impasse, now in its tenth month, is the longest in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion reset the political order.

Updated: August 14, 2022, 4:13 AM