GETTY THE BIG APPLE: An aerial view of Lower Manhattan at dusk in New York City
USGS RISK: A seismic hazard map of New York produced by USGS “New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances” Dr Simon Day, natural disaster researcher This is because the bedrock underneath parts of NYC, including Long Island and Staten Island, cannot effectively absorb the seismic waves produced by earthquakes. “An important feature of the central and eastern United States is, because the crust there is old and cold, and contains few recent fractures that can absorb seismic waves, the rate of seismic reduction is low. Central regions of NYC, including Manhattan, are built upon solid granite bedrock; therefore the amplification of seismic waves that can shake buildings is low. But more peripheral areas, such as Staten Island and Long Island, are formed by weak sediments, meaning seismic hazard in these areas is “very likely to be higher”, Dr Day said. “Thus, like other cities in the eastern US, New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances than is the case for cities on plate boundaries such as Tokyo or San Francisco, where the crustal rocks are more fractured and absorb seismic waves more efficiently over long distances,” Dr Day said. In the event of a large earthquake, dozens of skyscrapers, including Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street, could be at risk of shaking. “The felt shaking in New York from the Virginia earthquake in 2011 is one example,” Dr Day said. On that occasion, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered 340 miles south of New York sent thousands of people running out of swaying office buildings.
USGS FISSURES: Fault lines in New York City have low rates of activity, Dr Day said NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was “lucky to avoid any major harm” as a result of the quake, whose epicenter was near Louisa, Virginia, about 40 miles from Richmond. “But an even more impressive one is the felt shaking from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes in the central Mississippi valley, which was felt in many places across a region, including cities as far apart as Detroit, Washington DC and New Orleans, and in a few places even further afield including,” Dr Day added. “So, if one was to attempt to do a proper seismic hazard assessment for NYC, one would have to include potential earthquake sources over a wide region, including at least the Appalachian mountains to the southwest and the St Lawrence valley to the north and east.”
Member of Hamas Political Bureau Maher Salah emphasized on Tuesday that the extremist Israeli settler groups’ plans to break into the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque require the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations to mobilize efforts and confront such dangerous schemes aimed at preserving the status quo and Judaizing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in preparation for the establishment of the alleged temple mount.
The Hamas official stressed that the Israeli occupation authorities are racing against time to fully use the political conditions to implement their extremist agenda against our sanctities.
He reiterated that for such Zionist extremist plans against the blessed Mosque to be repelled, Palestinians at the popular, factional, and political levels, as well as the Arab and Islamic nations and the world’s free peoples must assume responsibility to defend it against the increased attacks by Israeli occupation forces and settlers.
The protests began with the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The regime’s morality police arrested her on September 13 for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab, the mandatory head covering imposed upon Iran’s women. Two hours after her arrest, she was taken to a hospital where, three days later, she succumbed to skull injuries that had been sustained during her detention.
It is not just the violent death of the young woman that has driven women and men to take to the streets to protest. Their anger was also fueled by the authorities’ unabashed attempts to cover up the cause of Mahsa’s death. The moral police claimed that an ‘unfortunate heart failure’ is what took her life.
In their entirety, however, they undermine the legitimacy of the rulers. This also applies to the most recent wave of protests. It is about the core of the mullahs’ regime.
The protests, which have spread like wildfire in many cities across the country over the past week, according to reports, protests have spread to at least 146 cities and all 31 provinces throughout the country. Over 180 people have been killed by the regime’s repressive security forces.
With a mixture of pity for the protesters’ anger and a threat not to take it too far, the regime hoped that the protesters would go home after a few days.
However, with no signs of the uproar easing, the power apparatus is discarding its restraint and starting to threaten the demonstrators. The regime is thus heading for a bloodbath because the predominantly young demonstrators are by no means willing to retreat as the videos from Iran over the past nine days have shown.
Protests that undermine the legitimacy of the regime, now challenging the ruling axis of the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards, have continued throughout the country.
This wave of protests is growing into a broad social movement that threatens to endanger the very existence of the medieval regime because it is finding support from all social classes in society.
The US is designing its SSN(X) next-generation nuclear attack submarine in a significant shift from procuring Virginia class SSNs to a new class by the 2030s. The program addresses maintenance woes in its current nuclear attack submarine fleet and reorients US undersea warfare capabilities to great power competition from China and Russia.
Although the Virginia class is built with incremental improvements called “blocks,” a new design that solves maintenance problems and includes game-changing technologies may represent the development of a new class altogether.
The CRS report states that the US Navy estimates the SSN(X)’s price tag at US$5.8 billion per boat, significantly higher than the $3.6 billion for a VPM-equipped Virginia class boat.
At the Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium held this month, Rear Admiral Jonathan Rucker stated that the US currently has 50 SSNs, but 18 are under maintenance and unavailable to operational commanders, as reported in Defense News.
Rucker said that the current number of SSNs in maintenance is too high and that sub maintenance is facing challenges in planning availabilities, work execution and keeping enough spares and materials for repairs on hand.
At the same conference, Rear Admiral Scott Brown said that the US Navy did not make sufficient investments in repair and maintenance capabilities when designing and acquiring the Virginia class SSN, resulting in the cannibalization of other boats to maintain operational numbers and delays waiting for parts and components that are often unavailable.
Rucker emphasized that such shortfalls should not happen with the SSN(X). He stated that from over a million parts in the Virginia SSN, only 0.1%, or 32 parts, were found not to perform as intended from a life expectancy perspective. He also mentioned that those 32 parts were redesigned, or had their maintenance cycle changed, insinuating those improved parts could possibly be used in the SSN(X).
He stated that the SSN(X) design emphasizes four top requirements: speed, stealth, payloads and operational availability. Rucker and Brown’s statements echo the August 2022 CRS reporthighlighting the industrial base and maintenance woes plaguing the US Virginia class SSN fleet.America’s shipyards are being asked to produce more Virginia-class submarines per year. Credit: US Navy photo.
The report notes concern about the US’ limited industrial base to construct two Virginia class SSNs with the multi-mission Virginia Payload Module (VPM) and one Columbia class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) annually from the mid-2020s to mid-2030s.
Despite those limitations, there may be plans to increase US submarine production to three Virginia class boats and one Columbia class boat per year, which has been dubbed the “3+1 program.”
In December 2021, US President Joe Biden signed three determinations of the Defense Production Act (DPA) to strengthen the US submarine industrial base to increase the production of Virginia class subs.
However, the CRS report asks several difficult questions – most without answers – about the US’ submarine construction industrial base. First, it asks whether the US Navy, submarine shipyards and submarine supplier firms have agreed on the US industrial base capacity to handle building the Virginia and Columbia class subs.
Second, it asks whether those organizations have taken steps to increase the industrial base capacity to match desired submarine procurement rates. Third, the report asks about the specific effects of the three presidential DPA determinations on US submarine-building capacity.
The CRS report also points to other issues within the Virginia class fleet such as cannibalization between boats, noting that some components have worn out earlier than their 33-year designed lifespan, with flaws in contractor quality and out-of-spec parts contributing to accelerated wear.
The report notes that most cannibalized parts were electrical components, among other classified parts. It also says that cannibalization brings a slew of disadvantages, such as increased workload and risks of parts being damaged during the process.
Other issues raised in the CRS report included substandard steel, problems with hull coating and defective parts.
With all these problems, US Navy SSNs have had delayed deployments due to capacity-related backlogs at US Naval shipyards, notes a separate July 22 CRS report. That report asks critical questions about the US Navy’s required number of SSNs given its 355-ship goal in 2016 while pointing to the operational implications of the US’ shrinking SSN fleet, which is projected to decline to 46 boats by 2028 and stay below 60 until 2045.
The US built the Virginia class SSN in the 2000s as a less-expensive alternative to the Seawolf class, which was built between 1989 and 2005, with the latter class being the most expensive US attack sub ever built at $5 billion per boat in 2018 dollar values.
The Seawolf class was designed as the successor to the 1970s Los Angeles class, which is currently still in service. The US built the subs to operate in deep-water environments to hunt then-Soviet nuclear-powered subs such as the Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs (SSBN) and Akula-class SSNs.
However, the US built only three out of 29 planned boats due to the end of the Cold War.A Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine moors to the pier at Naval Base Guam. Photo: U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger
In contrast, the VPM-equipped Virginia class costs $3.6 billion per boat while featuring technologies found in the Seawolf class.
While the Virginia class can perform the same missions as the Seawolf class, it is optimized for a post-Cold War threat environment characterized by covert insertion and delivery of special operations forces (SOF), covert cruise missile strikes on land targets and covert offensive and defensive mine warfare.
However, renewed great power competition between the US, China and Russia may have prompted a shift in US submarine design philosophy, with a new emphasis on anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.
Notably, China’s rapidly advancing anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities and improving nuclear and conventional subs pose a significant challenge to US undersea dominance in the Pacific. Russia’s nuclear subs are also a serious challenge to US dominance in the Pacific and Arctic. When operating close to US shores, Chinese and Russian subs pose a significant threat to the US homeland.
Apart from simplifying logistics and maintaining fleet numbers as a rationale for the SSN(X), the US Navy may have reached its stealth capability limit with a purely mechanical system, a limitation that may be driving the SSN(X)’s development.
In a 2016 article for The National Interest, Dave Majumdar notes that a next-generation sub would have to dispense with moving parts to improve stealth drastically, as rotating machinery and propulsors moving through water excite the stern and other parts, generating noise.
In addition, Majumdar notes that a permanent magnet motor for the upcoming Columbia class may also be installed in the SSN(X), presenting a big technological leap from the Virginia class.
Critically, the increasing stealth of Chinese and Russian subs may be the driving factor to improve the stealth of the Virginia class. However, current mechanical propulsion technologies may already have reached their limit.
Similarly, Russia has been steadily improving the capability of its subs, despite the relative deterioration of its military in other areas. In technology terms, the Yasen SSGNs represent a significant development in acoustic signature reduction and weapons integration, which are on par with some Western counterparts, notes Arnaud Sobrero in a February 2021 article for The Diplomat.
Sobrero also mentions that Russia’s Borei SSBNs are more modern than the aging US Ohio class SSBNs. Russia commissioned its Belgorod special mission submarine this July.
Asia Times has reported on this development, noting that the Belgorod is the designated carrier of the Poseidon nuclear-armed underwater drone and the highly-classified Losharik saboteur sub.Russia’s Belgorod submarine is designed to fight in a nuclear conflict. Image: Creative Commons
Asia Times has also reported on Russia’s planned successor to the Borei class, the Arcturus, which is optimized for Arctic operations and features stealth improvements such as a shaftless power plant and pump jet propulsion.
Given these threats, the US Navy envisions the SSN(X) will be an “apex predator” combining the high speed and payload of the Seawolf class, stealth and sensors of the Virginia class and availability and service life of the Columbia class.
The CRS report says the SSN(X) will be designed to counter the growing threat posed by near-peer adversary competition for undersea supremacy, noting it aims to outclass competitors in terms of speed, payload, stealth and operational availability.
The SSN(X) will also be capable of full-spectrum undersea warfare and coordinate with a larger contingent of off-hull vehicles, sensors and friendly forces while improving multi-mission capability and sustained combat presence in denied waters.
The controversial Shia cleric and militia leader has long been at the heart of Iraq’s political intrigue.
In a nutshell
The enigmatic Iraqi cleric has long been at the center of Iraqi politics
His private militias shaped years of conflict in the country
The American withdrawal set the stage for confrontation with Iran
Nearly a year after Iraq’s last parliamentary election, the country’s political system remains frozen in crisis. The man who seemed to emerge as kingmaker after last October’s vote – Muqtada al-Sadr – proved unable to secure a coalition government, while thousands of his followers took to the streets, storming the halls of government.
This failure of the Shia cleric, who announced his retirement from politics for at least the fourth time, is casting a shadow on his chances of shaping events to come.
Muqtada al-Sadr was born in Najaf, Iraq, on August 4, 1974, to a prominent Shia clerical family with roots in Lebanon’s Jabal Amil region. The fourth and youngest son of Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, he was considered the least intellectual of his brothers, but he was a good organizer and his father trusted him with the daily management of some of his madrassas.
Mr. Sadr’s political career is marked by several major turning points. Notwithstanding his repeated resignations, his emotional decision-making and his ideological contradictions, throughout the years he has stuck to two principles: that Iraq must have self-rule, and that he must be a central player in his country’s politics.
A father’s death
In April 1980, Saddam Hussein executed his father’s cousins, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, a scholar. The death of the former – the most senior cleric yet killed by the regime – shocked the extended al-Sadr family and the Shia community.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, Muhammad Sadiq, a religious scholar of rising influence, decided to keep a low profile. In the late 1980s, he even began to collaborate with the regime of Saddam Hussein, though quietly enough to avoid controversy in Shia society. The Iraqi dictator allowed him to establish some institutions and preach Islam to the Shia tribes and in Saddam City – the sprawling shantytown in northeast Baghdad, which in 2003 was renamed in his memory.
His father was a proud Arab and Iraqi, leading to competition with Shia Iran.
In 1998, Saddam allowed the elder al-Sadr to begin holding communal Friday prayers, a practice not seen in Shia areas for some time. He did this at his Friday mosque services in Kufa, near Najaf, sermons that attracted tens of thousands of young Shia eager to hear some anti-Baath preaching. Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr carefully straddled the line between obeying and criticizing the regime – never explicitly crossing it, but attacking all the other Iraqi ayatollahs for their passivity and fear of Saddam. This generated a bitter rivalry with their leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Critically, in the fall of 1999, he declared himself Wali Amr al-Muslimin, the one responsible for all the world’s Muslims. This implied that the true leader of the Iranians and the Shia world was not Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but the elder al-Sadr.
Mr. Khamenei was incensed – as this was a title reserved in Iran only for him and his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini – and closed all the offices in Iran belonging to Muqtada’s father. In December 1999, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of Najaf. Muqtada’s two elder brothers, both highly respected religious scholars, died in the same hail of bullets.
A ready martyr
Most blamed the assassination on Saddam, but it would have been a serious mistake on his part to murder the senior al-Sadr. The religious leader had served the regime’s purposes well by preventing mass clashes with Shia Iraqis. He had also offended other Najaf clerics whom Saddam reviled and, most helpfully, humiliated and drew the ire of Saddam’s archenemy, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. The latter, on the other hand, had very good reason to eliminate such a formidable competitor – a fact that cannot have escaped Muqtada’s attention.
The death of his father and brothers represented the first turning point in Muqtada’s adult life. Thereafter, he frequently appeared wearing white shrouds and declared himself ready to become a martyr. His father’s slain cousin, Baqir al-Sadr, also acted similarly before his arrest and execution. But Muqtada al-Sadr is far from genuinely seeking martyrdom; he has taken risks, but has always left himself a way out.
From his father, he inherited a few central political principles to which he still adheres. One is enmity toward the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel, which his father called “the ill-fated trinity.” These days, Mr. Sadr’s intense ire is reserved exclusively for Israel.
Another central pillar is his father’s attachment to Shia history and eschatology (like the expected Return of the Mahdi) and to Islamic law, though without embracing fanatical bigotry. Therefore, while Muqtada has found it easy to allow the killing of Sunnis for no other reason than their being Sunnis, he can also easily befriend Sunni Arabs and Kurds when necessary.
Finally, his father was a proud Arab and Iraqi, leading to competition with Shia Iran. When politically expedient, Muqtada collaborated with the Iranian Quds Force, and even stayed in Iran; now he is confronting the regime.
Facts & figures
Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraq
From his father’s death until 2003, Mr. Sadr kept a very low profile. He accepted Saddam’s financial support because turning it down would have gotten him killed. Still, if he actually served Saddam, he did so very quietly. He kept supporting his father’s flock, the poorest Shia, with social help and religious guidance through a network of low-level clerics.
Muqtada al-Sadr is not charismatic in the usual sense; he derives his charisma from the people’s admiration for his father, an admiration that he has nurtured. For his ardent supporters, who risk their lives for him, the son of a martyred saint is also a saint. To great effect, he continues to remind them that he, too, may soon become a martyr. But while they admire him, Mr. Sadr treats his followers like a capricious nanny, threatening to disown them if they do not immediately abide by his orders.
The American enemy
The U.S. occupation of Iraq was Muqtada al-Sadr’s second turning point. Soon afterward, he sprang from his quiet activities into a political and military frenzy.
Why? First, fighting U.S. forces was a fulfillment of his father’s legacy. Second, it portrayed him as a heroic Iraqi and Muslim patriot, increasing his popularity. Finally, he understood that the Americans are not the British of old, and certainly not Saddam. They might have the ability to kill him, but, thanks to their political values, they would not.
Mr. Sadr established his private army, Jaysh al-Mahdi, named after the Shia Redeemer, the Vanished Twelfth Imam, who is expected to rise and lead the faithful to a final battle at the end of times. (In 2014, he changed the group’s name to Saraya al-Salam, the “Peace Companies.”) His fighters came from the same elements his father nurtured, and he ordered them to kill American soldiers – often providing them with Captagonpills, a potent psychostimulant to send them into battle in a frenzy.
The American occupation of Iraq was Muqtada al-Sadr’s second turning point.
Iran was very helpful in providing weapons and improvised explosive devices. This led to myriad confrontations between his Mahdi militia and American soldiers, with many casualties on both sides. Mr. Sadr’s forces also fought against supporters of his late father’s enemies, the four grand ayatollahs of Najaf, led by Ayatollah al-Sistani.
Soon after the Americans occupied Najaf, his militia murdered the pro-American Ayatollah Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, son of the late chief ayatollah. When the holy Shia Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra was blown up in 2006, Mr. Sadr likely saw it as a personal attack against him, as his militia’s namesake imam vanished in Samarra in the ninth century. His Mahdi Army became the cutting edge of fighting the Sunnis.
In August 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr occupied the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, among the most sacred Shia sites. He was besieged by the U.S. Marines, but his life was saved by his late father’s nemesis, Ayatollah al-Sistani. They met at the latter’s home, and Mr. Sadr agreed to order his fighters to lay down their weapons and leave Najaf.
The meeting changed him – the third turning point in his life, after his father’s violent death and the U.S. invasion. Mr. Sadr seems to have been in quest for a spiritual father, and found him in Ayatollah al-Sistani.
While his official religious “source of emulation” (muqallid) was Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Kadhim Husayni al-Haeri, Mr. Sistani became his true guide. Because this clashed with his father’s legacy, and because he needed to provide his wild supporters with a target, he still disobeyed Mr. Sistani’s call not to fight the Americans. Yet he has never again attacked the ayatollah or his supporters and, after the U.S. evacuation from Iraq in 2011, never antagonized him politically. Often, he has even acted as if they were perfectly in sync.
In 2007, feeling the heat from the U.S. “surge,” Mr. Sadr escaped to Iran, where he studied for four years in Qom. The following year, with the Mahdi Army growing dominant in the Iraq city of Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent in troops to subdue them, with massive American and British assistance.
It was a humiliation that Muqtada al-Sadr could never forgive, although he decided to serve his revenge cold. While he criticized Mr. Maliki for failing to demand an immediate exit of U.S. forces, he still supported him for the premiership after the elections of 2010.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011 was the next turning point. With no Americans left to fight, Mr. Sadr returned to Iraq and launched his long-term campaign against Mr. Maliki – and, less conspicuously, against Iran.
In 2012, he would split the parliamentary Shia camp for the first time, joining forces with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party. And by 2014, he would help replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister with Haidar al-Abadi.
Within a few more years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s campaign against Tehran would break out into the open, setting the stage for political crisis.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2, on Muqtada al-Sadr’s confrontation with Iran.
China first tested a nuclear weapon in 1964. And since then, Chinese authorites have been content with a relatively small nuclear arsenal.
That was, until very recently. There is now mounting evidence that China is substantially expanding its nuclear capabilities.
In this episode, we speak with Tong Zhou, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Visiting Researcher at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, to explain what is driving Chinese nuclear strategy.
The latest in a near-daily series of clashes between terrorists and Israeli security forces, a Palestinian accelerated his vehicle on Saturday with clear intent to ram into IDF forces, who immediately responded with live fire. The assailant succumbed to his wounds a short time later; no injuries were reported among the IDF troops.
In a separate incident, IDF Special Operation forces from the Golani Division acted on concrete intelligence of the impending attack, ambushing a Palestinian terror cell en route to shooting at Har Bracha. The Israeli civilian community was targeted by two attacks during the past week
Palestinian sources identified the motorcyclist as Said Al-Kawni. He was a member of a new Palestinian umbrella group of different factions calling itself the “Lion Den,” and hailed as a “hero of resistance” who died during “clashes with occupation forces.”
According to reports, at least two of the terrorists in the vehicle were severely injured but managed to flee into the nearby city of Nablus.
Most stores in Nablus were closed yesterday after Palestinian terror groups called for a general strike, while 30 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike in protest at their conditions of detention.
“There are many people in the State of Israel who do not know that they are alive thanks to you. If you weren’t present, if your battalion didn’t exist, if this place wasn’t established, if your missions of reconnaissance or arrests were not undertaken, there would be many new graves throughout the state of Israel. They will never know. They will go about their lives, meet their families today, kiss their children, dip some apple in honey, and this whole time – they will not know that they are alive because of the group of people sitting here,” he said.
The Premier went on to laud operation activity by the Border Police and IDF forces as “Holy Work,” and urged the troops to proceed with caution while remaining vigilant for their own lives.