A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011


Bob Hennelly

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region.

It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

How widespread would fallout from a nuclear bomb be? Revelation 16

nuclear bomb explosion blast city shutterstock_528910063
An illustration of a nuclear bomb exploding in a city.

Russia’s war in Ukraine raises a harrowing question: How widespread would fallout from a nuclear bomb be?

  • Six months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, experts described what would happen in a nuclear strike, which is unlikely.
  • A I’m-day nuclear bomb could wipe out an entire city and cause third-degree burns nearby it.
  • But the strength of a blast depends on the size of the bomb and how it’s detonated.

Russian forces attacked Ukraine with missile strikes and shelling on Februar, kicking off a dramatic escalation of the conflict in the region. Russia has launched thousands of missiles since the start of the attack, a senior US defense official said at a Friday news briefing.

At least 5,500 civilians have been killed in the fighting, according to the latest count from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and millions of Ukrainians have fled the country, becoming refugees.

And on August 24, Ukrainians marked six months of Russia’s gruesome invasion into the country.

Security experts hope the conflict won’t broaden to include other countries or devolve into a full-fledged world war. In a speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the US had “no intention of fighting Russia” but added: “The United States and its allies will defend every inch of NATO territory.” The US belongs to NATO, a military alliance consisting mostly of European countries, but Ukraine does not.

A nuclear strike is unlikely but not altogether implausible, experts told Insider. 

“I hope it doesn’t escalate, and I think there’s a good chance that it doesn’t, but the risk is real whenever nuclear-armed states are engaged in conflict with one another,” Tara Drozdenko, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, told Insider.

“Ukraine doesn’t have nuclear weapons, so the risk of nuclear war in this scenario is if, somehow, the conflict escalated to pull in NATO countries or the US,” she added. “That raises the risk of nuclear confrontation because some of the NATO countries have nuclear weapons.”

The US has about 5,500 nuclear weapons, while Russia has about 6,000, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Drozdenko said US nukes generally had explosive yields equivalent to about 300 kilotons of TNT, while Russian nukes tended to range from 50 to 100 kilotons to 500 to 800 kilotons, though each country has more powerful nuclear weapons.

“Modern weapons are 20 to 30 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Drozdenko said, adding: “If the US and Russia launched everything that they had, it could potentially be a civilization-ending event.”

A single nuclear weapon can easily wipe out an entire city, Kathryn Higley, a professor of nuclear science at Oregon State University, told Insider.

“It’s really hard to say, ‘Well, this city will survive and that city won’t,'” she added. “It’s very, very dependent on weapon size, what the topography looks like, where they detonate it, who’s upwind, who’s downwind.”

When a nuclear bomb strikes, it sets off a flash of light, a giant orange fireball, and building-toppling shockwaves. People at the center of the explosion (within half a mile for a 300-kiloton bomb) could be killed right away, while others in the vicinity could suffer third-degree burns. A 1,000-kiloton nuclear blast might produce third-degree burns up to 5 miles away, second-degree burns up to 6 miles away, and first-degree burns up to 7 miles away, according to one estimate from AsapScience. People up to 53 miles away could also experience temporary blindness.

“Say you’re in a city, and you are far enough away from the blast center that you don’t get a lethal dose of radiation — you are very likely going to be injured by a falling building or have third-degree burns over a large portion of your body,” Drozdenko said, adding: “There are not enough empty burn beds in all of the United States to deal with even a single nuclear attack on one city in the US.”

Nuclear explosions also produce clouds of dust and sandlike radioactive particles that disperse into the atmosphere — what’s referred to as nuclear fallout. Exposure to this fallout can result in radiation poisoning, which could damage the body’s cells and prove fatal.

Fallout can block sunlight, causing temperatures to drop dramatically and shortening the growing season for essential crops. Drozdenko said crop production could be drastically altered for decades, which would result in famine in some places.

If a 300-kiloton nuclear weapon were to strike a city the size of Washington, DC, many residents wouldn’t survive, and some nearby residents would face devastating injuries. 

“A lethal dose of radiation would cover pretty much most of the city and a little bit into Virginia,” Drozdenko said. “The thermal radiation, the heat, is going to go all the way out into parts of Maryland, a little farther into Virginia, and all those folks within that area are going to have third-degree burns.”

Drozdenko estimated that a single nuclear weapon could kill about 300,000 people in the Washington area and injure as many more. Multiple weapons could put the death toll in the millions, she said, depending on how many bombs fell and how powerful the blasts were.

“The bigger the weapon, the bigger the radius,” she said.

The fallout of a nuclear bomb also depends on how a country chooses to detonate it.

If the weapon struck land, the explosion would produce more radioactive fallout as dirt and other materials were thrown into the atmosphere. But if a country detonated the bomb midair, the shockwaves would bounce off the ground and amplify one another, Drozdenko said, which would result in a much larger area of destruction. This “airburst” could also send radioactive materials as high as 50 miles into the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Countries rely on simulations and weapon tests to anticipate these effects, but it’s difficult to know how a modern-day nuclear attack would play out in real life.

“There’s no historical precedent for this at all,” Drozdenko said, adding: “The only time nuclear weapons have been used in a conflict is World War II.”

‘Revolution’ in Iraq? How the Antichrist is testing a young democracy.

‘Revolution’ in Iraq? How Shiite cleric is testing a young democracy.

Fri, August 26, 2022, 10:20 AM

In the latest escalation of his self-declared “revolution” against Iraq’s political system, including a push for new elections, firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers Tuesday to occupy judicial offices.

They hoped to repeat their success at shutting down Iraq’s parliament, where Sadrists have camped outside for weeks to prevent the formation of a new government by political opponents. The Sadrist bloc in parliament had failed to do so itself, despite winning the largest number of seats in October 2021 elections.

But Tuesday, Sadr loyalists did not even get inside the gates of the Supreme Judicial Council building, amid a flurry of immediate negative reactions – including from top Iraqi judicial officials, Iran-backed Shiite militia leaders, and the United Nations – that warned of the further erosion of Iraqi state legitimacy.

By nightfall, Mr. Sadr’s supporters effectively had been called off, ordered by their leaders to depart judicial offices but leave their tents standing, in a show of continued “pressure.”

“What we are seeing is that the nascent democratic institutions of Iraq are being tested, in their limits and their ability to withstand these shocks,” says a political analyst and former government official in Baghdad, who asked not to be named due to the restrictions of his current job.

He says he drove by judiciary offices Tuesday night and confirmed, “the tents were there, but Sadr’s followers were not.”

Mr. Sadr “doesn’t like to play by the rules,” the analyst says.

“Our parliament doesn’t exist, because it’s being blocked by the Sadrists. Our judiciary has decided to close up shop, because of the attempt to enter by the Sadrists. And you have an interim caretaker outgoing government in the executive,” he says.

“So you’ve got the three branches of government either paralyzed or completely lacking any authority,” the analyst adds. “This is as weak as a state can get without collapsing. … We are in uncharted territory.”

On the one hand, Iraq’s current political crisis reveals how vulnerable the country remains to the whims of a single, disgruntled, unelected player like Mr. Sadr. The scion of an important religious family, he commands a significant number of followers who are often likened to a cult.

Indeed, the mid-ranking Shiite cleric triggered the current stand-off himself, by abruptly ordering the 73 elected parliamentarians loyal to him – the largest single bloc – to resign en masse in June, after he failed to form a government by allying with a key Kurdish party and smaller Sunni groups.

On the other hand, institutional checks seem to have worked to a degree, preventing Mr. Sadr from completely dismantling Iraq’s nascent democracy. Despite widespread corruption, manifest imperfections, and lengthy episodes of gridlock, the system has served as political glue to Iraq’s disparate sectarian branches since American troops toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Adding to Iraq’s volatility is that Mr. Sadr, whose legions of followers spearheaded opposition to the American military occupation, and who raised the Mahdi Army militia for that purpose, is locked in an intra-Shiite political battle. On the other side is a host of rival militias and parties, many backed by Iran, that led the fight against the Islamic State beginning in 2014.

When Mr. Sadr ordered the mass resignation from parliament, his loyalists were replaced – according to a new 2021 law – by the runner-up candidates, who often were from the rival Shiite groups, called the Coordination Framework.

Abbas Kadhim, director of the Iraq Initiative at the Atlantic Council in Washington, says a “lack of strategy” fed Mr. Sadr’s decision to withdraw his followers from parliament. Putting pressure on the judiciary as a path to new elections “is a lost battle for them,” since the judiciary can’t legally dissolve parliament, he says.

“They handed their seats to their rivals, and … wrote themselves completely out of any political participation in government,” says Dr. Kadhim. “Had they used any system of advisers, someone could have told them, ‘You are committing political suicide here,’ but nobody could step up and say this is wrong.

“And now that they are out, they want to be back,” he says. “No Iraqi political bloc can afford being out of government for three and half or four years. … They turned Iraq into a runaway train right now, with no parliament, no judiciary, and only a caretaker government whose powers are severely truncated.”

While the only remedy for Iraq’s current political dysfunction may be another election, rival Shiite parties “are using the letter of the law to the fullest extent they can to teach their opponents a lesson: ‘You made a mistake, and that is not without a price,’” says Dr. Kadhim. “It’s not a bad thing,” he adds, “otherwise, any person with 2,000 or 3,000 people can go and occupy the parliament and put Iraq into a crisis again.”

Mr. Sadr’s demand for new elections, meanwhile, is raising questions among Iraqis about why another vote is necessary after the October 2021 round in which Mr. Sadr’s supporters performed so well. Reflecting Iraqis’ growing disenchantment with their political system, that round saw the lowest turnout in the post-Saddam era, at just 43%, compared with some 70% in the legislative election of 2005.

Last October’s election was itself conducted early – and largely freely and fairly, according to U.N. and other observers – thanks to massive 2019-2021 civil society protests against corruption, lack of job prospects, and electricity shortages, as well as the outsized influence of Iran-backed Shiite militias on politics.

Unlike those protests, which had the backing of a broad swath of angry Iraqis, the current power play on the street is being carried out exclusively by followers of Mr. Sadr. It’s not clear if a fresh election – which in any event would take at least a year to organize, and require new funding – would be enough to satisfy the expectations Mr. Sadr has raised among his followers of a “revolution.”

“He’s made such a show, going into the Green Zone and occupying parliament,” says Hamzeh Hadad, a Baghdad-based fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

He notes that when Mr. Sadr first played that card in 2016, his followers stormed parliament and achieved a broad cabinet reshuffle that brought in a number of technocrat ministers. “He was able to say, ‘Look, I took you into parliament, this is the result we achieved, this is what we wanted,’” says Mr. Hadad.

The bar is much higher now, he says, because Sadrists had so many seats to start with; because of the unprecedented length of time they have blocked parliament; and because Mr. Sadr has shifted from his usual nationalistic rhetoric to invoke a Shiite religious framework.

“You can’t talk about revolution in those terms, and not have something to give,” says Mr. Hadad. “Yes, he has a very cult-like following, but they, too, want results.”

Mr. Sadr is banking that a new election will be enough to qualify as a “revolution,” while also being acceptable to his Kurdish and Sunni allies, says Mr. Hadad.

Yet the demand for a new election, even if it becomes feasible, is prompting concerns for Iraqi democracy.

“It’s one of the flaws in the system,” says the Baghdad analyst who asked not to be named. “Yes, we do hold elections, and we do have people represent us in parliament. But what good is that if they take their orders from their political party leaders?”

“This is the biggest thing that is going to hurt Iraq in the long run,” says Mr. Hadad. “Many think, day-to-day short-term, ‘We please everyone, we hold them together, we hold new elections, everyone is happy,’” he says.

“The issue is going to be Iraq’s democratization, which has been progressing over the long term,” he adds. “[Early elections] could be a big hindrance. … In the public eye, it is decreasing its legitimacy.”

The Ever Growing Chinese Nuclear Horn

China's increasing nuclear buildup poses threat to Indo-Pacific stability
Representative Image

China’s increasing nuclear buildup poses threat to Indo-Pacific stability

27 August, 2022 12:14 am IST

Beijing [China], August 26 (ANI): China is the only nation that is expanding its nuclear arsenal and this build-up poses a threat to the stability of the region, US Indo-Pacific Commander, Admiral John Aquilino has said. 

According to a Canada-based think tank, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), the US Indo-Pacific Commander made the remark at a press conference in Indonesia where he disclosed that China had “300 nuclear silos going in”.

He warned that China’s growing nuclear arsenal threatens the Indo-Pacific region’s stability, with Beijing pursuing “the largest military buildup in history” since World War II.

He further said, “If you’d like to talk about nuclear weapons and the concern for a nuclear arms race, all you have to do is look into the PRC (People’s Republic of China).”

Aquilino made the remarks following China’s opposition to Australia, UK, and US (AUKUS) defense pact, which will arm Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. Beijing said it poses nuclear proliferation risks.

As per a report released by the US Department of Defense, China’s accelerating pace of its nuclear buildup could enable it to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. 

The report stated that China could plan to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the US initial projection in 2020.

“The PRC has already established a nascent ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities,” the US Department of Defense report stated.

Meanwhile, the US Indo-Pacific Commander was in Indonesia for the Super Garuda Shield Exercise, an annual joint military exercise to improve regional cooperation.

More than 5,000 troops from the United States, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and Australia participated in the drill, which was held from August 1 to 14.

India, Canada, France, Malaysia, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the United Kingdom joined as observer nations, IFFRAS reported. 

Beijing had accused the AUKUS nations of taking no notice of “serious nuclear proliferation risks”, warning that it could undermine “peace and security in the region.”

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press briefing on July 29 that sharing nuclear information should not be allowed unless all stakeholders in the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed and if the body had oversight of the deal.

The comments from Beijing come as the United Nations holds its Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons between August 1 to 26, which will be scrutinising AUKUS after China and Indonesia submitted review requests.

But Australia has said that its commitment to the treaty hasn’t wavered, which is why the country will obtain the weapons in the most transparent way possible.

Australian Assistant Defense Minister Tim Ayres told the conference on August 2 that he is working with the international nuclear regulator and community to maintain “a nuclear weapons-free and independent Pacific.”

“All three (AUKUS) partners are committed to upholding our legal obligations and strengthening the integrity of the non-proliferation regime. We will not simply uphold but strengthen the regime’s integrity,” he said.

Australia, the US, and the UK, in a joint working paper to the Conference, have said that all three countries are committed to transferring the top-secret technology in a way that accords with the highest possible non-proliferation standards, including the provision of “complete, welded power units” to Australia so they do not need to conduct uranium enrichment or fuel fabrication, IFFRAS reported. 

Meanwhile, speaking at the NPT Review Conference at the United Nations in New York US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said “Some have asked about our new partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia known as AUKUS. Through this partnership, Australia will acquire submarines. I want to emphasize that these submarines will be nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed.” 

“Other countries have this kind of submarine. And these will adhere to the highest safety and Non-Proliferation standards under the NPT. We’re working very closely with the IEA to make sure that that’s the case,” he added. (ANI)

This report is auto-generated from ANI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Islamic Jihad looks to Hezbollah after disastrous war outside the Temple Walls

AFP via Getty Images

Islamic Jihad looks to Hezbollah after disastrous Gaza war

Also: three dates to watch for in Iran nuclear talks.

AFP via Getty Images

August 26, 2022

Iran nuclear deal timeline

As both Washington and Tehran inch toward a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal, the spotlight will soon turn to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve an investigation into Iran’s past nuclear weapons research.

Iran’s position on the investigation is “nothing to see here” and Tehran wants the file closed and detached from the JCPOA. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossitold CNN this week that “so far, Iran has not given us the technically credible explanations that we need to explain the origin of many traces of uranium.” In other words, the investigation will continue.

Join the Middle East’s top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

For Iran, there is precedent in separating the files. In 2015, the IAEA resolved an eerily similar concern into the past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, allowing implementation of the JCPOA to proceed.

Here are three dates to note in the weeks ahead as benchmarks for progress toward an agreement:

  • Sept. 12-16, IAEA Board of Governors meeting (Vienna): If the IAEA and Iran can work out an agreement in the in the next three weeks, it could be announced here.
  • Sept. 20-27, UN General Assembly “High Level” Debate (New York): World leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, will both be in New York (assuming Raisi gets a visa; Elizabeth Hagedorn has the story). Expect more frantic diplomacy on the sidelines of the session and talk of a possible Biden-Raisi meeting, even if it’s a long shot.
  • Nov. 8, US legislative elections: If there is a return to the JCPOA, US law requires that it be submitted to the Congress for a 30-day review period. While Congress can’t block an agreement, as Hagedorn explains, a debate close to elections could be ill-timed for Biden and congressional Democrats. Virtually all Republicans and even some Democrats, most notably Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey, oppose reentering the agreement.

PIJ looks for an assist from Hezbollah

Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met on Aug. 24 in Lebanon, looking for guidance as PIJ seeks to recover its tattered standing after a costly three-day war with Israel earlier this month.

Nasrallah, Iran’s top ally in Lebanon, is calling for unity among Gaza’s Islamist resistance factions after Hamas sat out the conflict, as Adam Lucente reports.

Hamas, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, governs the Gaza strip. PIJ is ideologically aligned with Hamas, but holds no formal political office or role. The two groups coordinate on their operations and actions toward Israel. Both the United States and Israel consider Hamas and PIJ terrorist organizations.

The costs for PIJ go beyond the battlefield to its already shaky standing in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

The spark came on Aug. 2, when Israeli forces arrested one of PIJ’s leaders,Bassam Al-Saadi, at the Jenin refugee camp. PIJ decided to retaliate from Gaza, not the West Bank. From Aug. 5 to 7, PIJ fired 1,100 rockets and mortars into Israel and the IDF carried out 147 air strikes against targets in Gaza in response. According to the United Nations,47 Palestinians were killed, among them 12 PIJ fighters, with 360 wounded. Palestinian deaths included 15 children and four women, according to thePalestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Among the Palestinians wounded, 151 were children and 56 women.

The Associated Press, based on its own investigation and an Israeli military assessment, reported that 14 of the Palestinians killed, including some of the children, came as a result oferrant PIJ missilesrather than Israeli airstrikes.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the PIJ missilekilled seven Gazans, including four children, and injured 21.

That a PIJ missile killed innocent Palestinians, including children, undermined the group’s claim as a leader of the “resistance” to Israel. Some Palestinians have called for an investigation into the incident, but most criticism stayed under the radar, as our correspondent reports from Gaza, fearing retribution from PIJ or Hamas. The Hamas media office warned journalists against adopting the Israeli narrative of events.

Israel claimed a “strategic victory” in the war by keeping Hamas out of the fighting, as Ben Caspitreports.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which historically have coordinated their actions against Israel, claim all is fine between them, despite reports to the contrary.

Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud al-Zahar told Al-Monitor’s Ahmed Melhem, “Israel has failed miserably in achieving this rift. If there was a dispute between the two movements, this would have been [officially] reported by the media or in the statements of officials. On the contrary, Hamas leaders participated in funeral gatherings ofIslamic Jihadleaders and gave speeches emphasizing the unity of the resistance. The two movements only disagreed on the timing of the battle against Israel.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian activists, journalists and media institutions claim they have been the target of a coordinated campaign by Israel to close down and restrict their social media accounts in the weeks following the war, as Taghreed Ali reports.

Amany Mahmoud reports from Gaza that PIJ is claiming Israel reneged on the terms of the cease-fire, but few are taking notice.

As long as Hamas isn’t interested in picking up the fight, PIJ is likely to keep its powder dry, at least in Gaza.

Since the cease-fire, Israel announced that it was increasing the number of work permits for Gazans in Israel from 14,000 to 20,000, including as many as 500 permits for women, as Mai Abu Hasaneen reports from Gaza.

The wages earned in Israel can be five times more than in Gaza, where unemployment is was 46.9% last year.

Whatever differences Hamas and PIJ may have about the last war in Gaza, they agree that their most promising future franchise may be in the West Bank.

Ahmed Melhem previously reported that Israel is waging a daily “war of attrition” in the West Bank, especially the refugee camps in Jenin, Tulkarem and Nablus. The Palestinian Authority has limited reach and influence in these areas and the face of resistance has fallen to Hamas and PIJ.

Fighting with the Iranian Horn Escalates

American forces patrolling in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh Province in May.
American forces patrolling in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh Province in May.Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Fighting Between U.S. and Iran-Backed Militias Escalates in Syria

Two strikes on U.S. military sites have been tied to forces aligned with Iran, raising tensions just as Washington appears close to striking a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Aug. 26, 2022

Militias backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force attacked a U.S. military base in southern Syria with drones recently and on the same day, a different base used by the U.S.-led coalition near Syria’s eastern border with Iraq came under rocket fire.

U.S. officials saw the back-to-back strikes on Aug. 15 as more sophisticated than previous attacks and feared that more were coming. That set off a string of tit-for-tat attacks this week — including U.S. airstrikes on three consecutive nights against Iran-linked targets in Syria. They amplified tensions between two powerful adversaries fighting on a foreign battlefield.

The Americans made clear to Iran, through private channels as well as publicly, that they were not trying to escalate hostilities but only sought to protect U.S. interests, said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security matters.

The flare-up was a reminder of how Syria, fractured and weakened by more than a decade of civil war, has provided a fertile ground for a multitude of proxy wars to play out involving Iran, Israel, the United States, Russia, Turkey and the Islamic State, among other actors. The U.S. military presence — roughly 900 service members — in Syria makes it a potential target of choice for those players looking to vent their grievances with Washington or its close ally, Israel.

Senior U.S. officials said the Aug. 15 attacks on the two U.S. bases in Syria could have been an Iranian attempt to avenge a previous Israeli attack by targeting Israel’s U.S. allies. But Iran denied any connection to the groups in Syria.

The drone attack, on the U.S. base at al-Tanf, near the border in south Syria, came a day after Israel struck military targets in the Syrian provinces of Damascus and Tartus, killing three Syrian soldiers. Those strikes targeted a Syrian army air defense base where Iran-backed fighters are often stationed, according to the British-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The new fighting comes at a very delicate moment in U.S.-Iran relations, as both sides are moving closer to agreeing on a revived nuclear deal that would lift sanctions on Iran in return for limits on its nuclear activities. Given that, any attacks that cause a large number of casualties on either side risk throwing the nuclear negotiations off course.

However, U.S. officials insisted there is no connection between the strikes in Syria and the nuclear negotiations. Other observers have wondered whether the attacks by forces allied with Tehran could be an effort by Iranian hard-liners to disrupt any deal.

Some Iranian analysts said they viewed the U.S. attacks as the Biden administration’s attempt to appease critics of the nuclear deal and demonstrate that it would maintain a tough stance against Iran even if a nuclear deal was reached.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces that operates in parallel with the military. It is tasked with securing Iran’s borders, and its overseas branch, the Quds Force, carries out operations across the Middle East and beyond and trains and arms Shiite proxy militias that operate in a number of countries. The U.S. has designated it as a terrorist group, which became a point of contention in the negotiations to revive the nuclear deal.

A senior U.S. official said there were several possible motives for Iran’s Aug. 15 attack. It could be a response to an Israeli strike or a new commander, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues. But the use of drones pointed clearly to the involvement of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran has built increasingly sophisticated weapons-capable drones in recent years. It has both sold them commercially to other nations and stepped up their transfer to proxy groups.

The Iranian Horn visited the Antichrist to discuss Iraq’s future

A commemoration ceremony is held near Baghdad International Airport marking the second anniversaries of the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on January 02, 2022 in Bahgdad, Iraq. ( Murtadha Al-Sudani - Anadolu Agency )

Report: Force commander visited Al-Sadr to discuss Iraq’s future

July 28, 2022

A commemoration ceremony is held near Baghdad International Airport marking the second anniversaries of the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on January 02, 2022 in Bahgdad, Iraq. [ Murtadha Al-Sudani – Anadolu Agency ]

August 25, 2022 at 12:10 pm 

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Qaani briefly met with prominent Shia Iraqi cleric, Moqtada Al-Sadr, to discuss the future of Iraq’s political sphere and Iran’s “dominant” role in it, Reuters reported on Tuesday citing four Iranian and Iraqi officials.

According to the report, the meeting took place on 8 February at Al-Sadr’s home in the city of Najaf and lasted half an hour, during which Al-Sadr received the general in his trademark brusque manner.

The meeting didn’t go well.

According to the Iraqi and Iranian officials, Al-Sadr wore a black-and-white Arab headdress and brown robe, a deliberate look to identify with the local Arab population and not the usual all-black vestments and Shia clerical turban he generally wears in public.

Al-Sadr’s fashion statement, the officials said, echoed his nationalist political message: Iraq, as a sovereign Arab state, would forge its own path, free of meddling from its Persian neighbour, despite sectarian ties between the Shia-dominated countries.

“What does Iraqi politics have to do with you?” Al-Sadr challenged Qaani, according to one of the officials. “We don’t want you interfering.”

Al-Sadr has been a crucial force in Iraq for much of the two decades since the US invaded and overthrew Saddam Hussein.

The sources explained that Qaani told Al-Sadr that if he included Tehran’s allies in any coalition, Iran would recognise Al-Sadr as Iraq’s main Shia political figure, no small gesture among the religious community’s fractious leadership.

Al-Sadr, however, was unswayed. In a tweet after the meeting, he stressed his commitment to a government free of foreign interference. “Neither Eastern nor Western,” he said, “A nationalist majority government.”

Neither Iran nor Al-Sadr responded to requests for comment.