Quakes remind us of the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

EDITORIAL: Quakes remind S.C. of history, potential threat

The Times and Democrat

As 2021 ended and 2022 began, a series of minor earthquakes affected South Carolina’s Midlands.

Elgin, a community of fewer than 2,000 residents near the border of Richland and Kershaw counties, has been the epicenter of the seismic activity, starting with a 3.3-magnitude earthquake on Dec. 27. That quake clattered glass windows and doors in their frames, sounding like a heavy piece of construction equipment or concrete truck rumbling down the road.

In January, more earthquakes have been recorded nearby, ranging from 1.5 to a 2.6 in magnitude. No injury or damage was reported.

Now it’s May – and the quakes are back.

In the early hours of May 9, a 3.3 magnitude earthquake shook the ground in Elgin. The earthquake was followed by two back-to-back earthquakes an hour later registering 1.6 and 1.8 magnitudes.

The three quakes pushed South Carolina’s 2022 earthquake tally to 23, with 19 happening within 35 miles of Columbia. Historically, 70% of earthquakes in the state happen along the Coastal Plain, but because the state isn’t considered a hot spot for earthquake activity, the recent midstate quakes are a bit of a mystery.

According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the state typically averages up to 20 quakes each year. Clusters often happen, like six small earthquakes in just more than a week in 2021 near Jenkinsville, about 38 miles west of the most recent group of tremors.

Though quakes are nothing new to South Carolina, many people in the state are not affected. According to emergency management officials, about 70% of South Carolina earthquakes are located in the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, about 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) northwest of Charleston.

Every year South Carolina has a week devoted to earthquake preparedness. And there is good reason for awareness.

Aug. 31, 2021, was the 135th anniversary of the largest earthquake to occur in the eastern U.S. In the late evening on that day in 1886, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck near Charleston, causing the loss of more than 100 lives. Many buildings collapsed or were heavily damaged, with economic losses estimated at more than $100 million in today’s dollars.

The quake was felt throughout much of the eastern and central U.S., with people reporting feeling it as far north as New York and as far west as Illinois and Missouri.

In 1999, retired T&D Publisher Dean B. Livingston wrote about what is recorded locally about that “unscheduled” occurrence that had a lot of people singing “Nearer My God To Thee.”

“The area was pounded for a week by quake shocks from four to 12 times a day. The Times and Democrat wrote of the earth’s rumblings: ‘This earthquake frightened many of the inhabitants into deep religious complex, such as was never known before, bringing about a great religious revival in the churches. …’

“One person wrote that ‘many thought the end of the world had come.’ Some terror-stricken citizens in Rowesville ‘ran to and fro exclaiming: ‘The great Judgment Day is at hand. Lord have mercy on me.” A T&D article noted that ‘many people prayed during the past two weeks who never prayed before.’

“A Sawyerdale citizen reported that ‘the flood of accessions to our various churches is almost unparalleled.’

“Residents of the city of Orangeburg were awakened when the first jolt hit. People in brick homes could hear the bricks ‘grinding together as the forces of the shocks increased.’ Many people complained of a nauseous sensation. Chimneys were shaken down, the Baptist church steeple was damaged and for several nights many families slept in the open, under sheds or in small buildings.

“As late as Oct. 14, The T&D reported that ‘shocks have become so common now that people soon throw off the peculiar feeling that they inspire, and go along as if nothing unusual had occurred. There is no telling when they (shocks) will end. …’

“Over in Vance, the quake was described as a ‘sound, a deep, muffled sound … resembling the distant thunder … the earth was one tremendous oscillation. Buildings creaked … poultry squawked, dogs howled, birds chirped; in fact, everything was completely aroused and powerfully demoralized … from 10 to 11 p.m., nine successive shocks were felt.’

“Two Orangeburg men were fishing on the Edisto River when the first big shock hit. They said the first noise sounded like a loud clap of thunder. ‘This was followed by the usual rumbling which was also very loud and deep. The course of the shake was distinctly marked by the falling of the berries and acorns from the trees as it passed.”

While they have no stories comparable to 1886, people of The T&D Region periodically experience tremors. With a large fault in the earth extending from Charleston into the region, when another major quake will come is unpredictable — but practically certain.

Iran 2 years from being able to detonate nuke: Revelation 16

 Nuclear bomb explosion (photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Israel thinks Iran 2 years from being able to detonate nuke – exclusive

Iran has avoided jumping to the 90% weaponized level, either because of Israeli military threats or US or broader Western economic threats.


Published: NOVEMBER 16, 2022 21:53

Top Israeli sources confirmed to The Jerusalem Post what has only been hinted at until now, that Jerusalem is banking on a mix of global pressure and a two-year breakout time it believes Iran would need to master nuclear weapon detonation and delivery, which means that a large-scale attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is not likely in the cards, even to prevent Tehran from crossing the threshold of 90% weaponized uranium enrichment.

Nuclear detonation refers to a specialized process required to achieve an atomic bomb detonation which differs from standard explosives, while nuclear delivery refers to unusual adaptations needed to be made to a ballistic missile for it to carry a nuclear warhead.

The Islamic Republic has been enriching uranium to the very high 60% level since April 2021 and had enough low-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, if enriched to higher levels, as early as March 2020.

For years, prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid have been willing (if uneasy) to live with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approaching the nuclear threshold.

However, Iran has avoided jumping to the 90% weaponized level, either because of Israeli military threats or US or broader Western economic threats.

 A number of new generation Iranian centrifuges are seen on display during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021 (credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)A number of new generation Iranian centrifuges are seen on display during Iran’s National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021 (credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Not enough action taken to prevent 90%

In multiple speeches to the UN around a decade ago, Netanyahu suggested that Israel would attack before letting Iran cross the 90% threshold – a commitment that should perhaps have been carried out in 2020-2021 at the 60% level.

Likewise, US officials have told the Post that an Iranian move to cross the 90% threshold would be a game-changer in terms of American policy.

Yet, before Netanyahu left office in mid-2021, it was already estimated that Khamenei could order a breakout and cross the 90% threshold within two months.

Instead of ordering a broad preemptive airstrike, the Post understands that top Israeli political and defense establishment officials decided on a current strategy that mixed smaller covert operations with attempts to convince the US to maintain sanctions.

Many top Israeli officials also still expect a return to the 2015 JCPOA which would lead Iran to seriously reduce its nuclear enrichment and centrifuge violations, and delay concerns about crossing the 90% line at least until late 2025.

Though most top Israeli officials oppose a return to the JCPOA, their expectation that it will happen anyway seems to have reduced the pressure to mount a preemptive strike.

All of these elements combined mean that it is very unlikely in the present context that Israel would launch a preemptive strike to block Khamenei from crossing the 90% level if Khamenei made that decision.

Yet, ironically, Israeli officials view allowing Iran to cross the 90% line as an existential threat.

It is remarkable too that Israel’s estimate of two years to master skills – like detonation and delivery– has remained unchanged now for several years.

In 2018, the Mossad seized Iran’s nuclear archives, bringing to light massive amounts of new information about its experiments with nuclear weapons development and some of its more recent activities in that regard.

However, since then, Israeli defense officials have said that the Islamic Republic has not progressed in a way that would shorten the two-year gap.

This is surprising in some ways because Tehran has continued to experiment with ballistic missiles and satellite launches nonstop – something which intelligence officials in both the US and Israel agree could advance nuclear weapons delivery capabilities.

In addition, some nuclear experts have speculated that Iran may have covert groups working on these other nuclear skills which the Mossad and CIA have not caught on to.

Despite any above-mentioned progress and speculation, the Post has recent confirmation that the clear Israeli opinion remains that the two years to master these other nuclear skills has not been reduced.

China Horn Leading US in Race to Hypersonic Dominance: Daniel 7

Military vehicles carrying hypersonic DF-17 missiles travel past Tiananmen Square during a military parade in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Military vehicles carrying hypersonic DF-17 missiles travel past Tiananmen Square during a military parade in Beijing, China, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

China Leading US in Race to Hypersonic Dominance: Analyst

By Andrew Thornebrooke

November 16, 2022 Updated: November 16, 2022

News Analysis

When news broke last year about a secret Chinese hypersonic missile test, the world was stunned. Pentagon officials appeared blindsided as news reported that a hypersonic missile had circled the earth and struck down towards a target. Lawmakers demanded that long-delayed military research be reinvigorated to counter the threat.

The United States and China have both worked tirelessly to further develop their hypersonic capabilities since then and, according to one expert, the United States is losing the race.

“China has effectively taken the lead in the hypersonic weapons race due to the breadth and depth of its technology investments,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a security-focused think tank.

“We are only seeing the beginning of their weapons developments in this field.”

According to Fisher, the United States and China are in a race to develop hypersonic weapons, and who deploys the weapons first may decide who guides the international order in the coming decades.

Epoch Times Photo
The U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle emerges from its rocket nose cone and prepares to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, in this illustration. (Courtesy of DARPA)

During his testimony (pdf) to Congress on the subject back in 2018, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin said that CCP forces were already developing the hypersonic capabilities necessary to hold U.S. assets at risk.

“China has fielded or can field … hypersonic delivery systems for conventional prompt strike that can reach out thousands of kilometers from the Chinese shore and hold our carrier battle groups or our forward-deployed forces on land … at-risk,” Griffin said.

“We, today, do not have systems that can hold them at-risk in a corresponding manner, and we do not have defenses against those systems.”

That’s because the type of hypersonic missiles being developed by the CCP behave in a manner far different from the traditional ballistic missiles that the United States missile defense architecture was designed to counter.

While the technical definition of a hypersonic missile refers to any missile that travels at least five times faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 5, common parlance typically uses the term to refer to one of two varieties of missile.

The first is hypersonic cruise missiles, which use high-tech jet engines to propel them at super speeds. The second is hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs), which are launched on a regular missile before detaching and navigating through the atmosphere at high speed.

Unlike traditional ballistic missiles, HGVs do not follow a parabolic trajectory into and out of the atmosphere, and can maneuver through the atmosphere as they fly to their destination.

Because of their speed, maneuverability, and lack of a ballistic trajectory, the weapons can evade earth-based radar systems until the final segment of their flight and, even when such sensors register a hypersonic launch, there are few systems capable of doing anything about it.

It is a fact that makes the weapons incredibly enticing to CCP authorities eager to gain a technological edge against the more advanced U.S. military. Moreover, just like in 2018, the United States still does not have the capacity to defend against such technology, as was affirmed in October 2021 by then-U.S. ambassador for disarmament Robert Wood.

“We just don’t know how we can defend against that technology,” Wood said of the test. “Neither does China, neither does Russia.”

hypersonic test
The U.S. Department of Defense launches a sounding rocket from NASA’s launch range at Wallops Flight Facility carrying hypersonic weapon experiments that will inform the development of the hypersonic class of weapons, on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Oct. 26, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

US Hypersonics Programs Struggling to Catch Up

To say that China’s HGV launch caught the United States on the back foot would be an understatement. Though the United States began research into hypersonic missiles in the early 2000s, the nation largely abandoned its HGV research following two failed tests in 2011.

Indeed, from April 2010 and July 2022, the United States conducted just 21 hypersonic missile tests. The CCP, meanwhile, conducted hundreds.

Gen. John Hyten, then-vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in October 2021 that a “brutal” Pentagon bureaucracy and risk-averse culture among military leadership had stifled efforts to build credible hypersonic weapons systems. In turn, he said, the CCP had seized the initiative.

“Single digits versus hundreds is not a good place,” Hyten said of the hypersonic tests conducted by the two countries.

“The pace [at which China is] moving and the trajectory that they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it. It will happen.”

The CCP’s hypersonic test in 2021 demonstrated that if push came to shove the regime could strike the U.S. homeland with a nuclear missile. The United States is responding, but it is unclear whether it will meet the threat in time.

There are at least eight programs across the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) dedicated to the development of hypersonic systems, many of which received bumps in funding following the CCP’s hypersonic demonstration.

Fisher believes that such efforts are vital if the United States is to field its own capabilities and begin to retake China in the hypersonic race.

“For its part, the United States in the next three years will deploy medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles armed with a maneuverable hypersonic warhead that eventually could hit moving targets like ships at sea,” Fisher said.

“There are also U.S. programs to develop hypersonic tactical range cruise missiles but these may not emerge until much later in this decade.”

The Pentagon, however, has not made a final decision on whether it will acquire the weapons once they are completed. None of the eight prototypes mentioned are associated with programs of record.

That’s problematic for U.S. efforts to deter CCP aggression given that an October report (pdf) by the Congressional Research Service found that China has likely already fielded operational HGVs, potentially armed with nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon has not publicly released the findings of its classified reports analyzing the readiness of the CCP’s programs, but the regime’s latest, highly accurate hypersonic capabilities are expected to be fielded by 2025.

The United States’ hypersonic projects, meanwhile, are slated to appear between 2025 and 2028.

Aside from new hypersonic weapons, the United States’ Missile Defense Agency and Space Development Agency are developing a hypersonic missile defense system which, according to a separate briefing (pdf) by the Congressional Research Service, will deploy a satellite-based tracking layer for global detection of hypersonic missiles launches by 2023, though it too will likely not be fully operational until 2025.

That means that, should the United States fail to deploy new hypersonic weapons before 2028, the CCP will have an unprecedented strategic and nuclear advantage for as long as three years.

As of yet, however, the United States lacks the capability to defend against an attack by a HGV such as the one the CCP launched last year. In the best-case scenario, the United States will have deployed the systems necessary to detect and track such missiles by next year, but not necessarily to destroy them.

Epoch Times Photo
A Long March 5B rocket lifts off from the Wenchang launch site on China’s southern Hainan island on May 5, 2020. Another variant of the Long March rocket was used to get China’s hypersonic missile into orbit in July 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

China Investing in Wide Array of Hypersonics

As the United States struggles to kickstart its long-neglected hypersonic weapons programs, the CCP and its military wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), continue to advance hypersonics development in a black box of uncertainty.

Behind a new Iron Curtain, little can be said of the regime’s current hypersonic capabilities. What is known is that the regime has developed several hypersonic-capable weapons, many of them nuclear capable.

Most famously, the regime’s Dongfeng-17 (DF-17) missile was developed explicitly to be equipped with a HGV. Other missiles in the PLA arsenal could be outfitted with similar technology, however, including variants of the DF-16, DF-21, DF-26, DF-31, and DF-41.

According to Fisher, this means that the CCP’s hypersonics program could affect short, medium, intermediate, and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs). In other words, missiles of all ranges.

“There are indications that future versions of PLA ICBMs will be armed with multiple small HGV warheads,” Fisher said.

“In addition, the PLA has tested orbital launched HGVs from a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that may or may not represent an in-production weapon.”

The most dangerous scenario, Fisher said, was that the regime could decide to use the threat of such bombardment to deter the United States from defending its allies or partners. Such a threat could only meaningfully be countered by the deployment of new space-based systems.

Fisher said that the greatest threat facing the United States in the near term was the possibility that China would field ICBMs each equipped with multiple nuclear HGVs. The United States would only be able to defend against such weapons, he said, with space-based energy weapons that would target the missiles in their boost phase, before they reached orbit and became untrackable.

Fisher’s comments resembled similar advice made by a Congressional report (pdf), which found that “interceptor missiles, hypervelocity projectiles, laser guns, and electronic attack systems,” could be used to defend the United States from China’s new weapons.

The problem with that situation is that those technologies either do not yet exist or have not yet been deployed.

Given that fact, Fisher said that the United States would have to pursue other options if presented with the threat of hypersonic warfare from China. Namely, disrupting the attack by striking the systems used to track and control them.

“The U.S. has non-missile interceptor options for defeating or degrading PLA FOBS-launched HGV strike weapons,” Fisher said.

“It can make sure that the PLA does not exploit its bases in Antarctica for tracking and guidance of FOBS platforms, [and] destroy the PLA space tracking and control base in Argentina immediately during any conflict.”

Fisher’s comments referred to one of the CCP’s space observation stations in Patagonia which is operated by the PLA in pursuit of a top-secret mission, possibly including missile guidance.

Epoch Times Photo
An artistic rendition of DARPA’s Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2). The Chinese regime recently held its fourth test of a hypersonic missile. (DARPA)

Fisher’s fears that the CCP could deter the United States from involvement in a future conflict appear to align with most research on the subject.

A 2021 report (pdf)  by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an influential congressional advisory body, found that the CCP was working to develop and deploy HGVs alongside multiple retargetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), a form of warhead which contains multiple smaller warheads that can each be directed toward a separate target.

Likewise, defense officials have long warned that the CCP was modernizing its military with the explicit purpose of developing technologies capable of undermining and overcoming U.S. defenses. The worry is that the CCP does not seek security, but to fundamentally alter the rules-based international order by replacing the United States as the world superpower by using nuclear coercion.

“China has ambitions to be the great power on the face of the earth,”said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall earlier in the year. “They have ambitions to be the global great power.”

“To do that, they basically have to displace the United States.”

“They are studying how we fight … and designing systems that are intended to defeat us,” Kendall said.

To that end, one key reason the CCP is developing hypersonic weapons appears to be the ability to deter the United States from involving itself in a conflict that China starts, whether that conflict is over the future of Taiwan or something else entirely.

The CCP’s actions also suggest that the regime hopes its burgeoning hypersonic arsenal will allow it to mold U.S. behavior. Just days before a visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, for example, the regime released the first-ever public footage of the DF-17 hypersonic missile during a test fire.

Analysis of how the regime is deploying its newfound capabilities may also indicate its intent.

A new report (pdf) by Blue Path Labs, published by the China Aerospace Studies Institute, found that the PLA increased the number of its missile brigades by 33 percent between 2017 to 2019.

Vitally, three separate brigades are believed to be equipped with the DF-17 and its HGVs. These are the 614, 627, and 655 Brigades, of which both the 614 and 627 maintain either garrison or headquarters in provinces immediately adjacent to Taiwan.

In all, however, there is perhaps no better indicator of the regime’s intent than in the hypersonic nuclear weapons themselves.

Whereas most of the United States’ burgeoning hypersonic missiles are not nuclear capable, up to half of the PLA’s 40 missile brigades likely are, according to the 2022 Index of Military Power (pdf), published by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. And there is a real fear that China’s lack of investment in precision weapons, as opposed to massively destructive nuclear first-use weapons, demonstrates its dedication to nuclear proliferation and blackmail.

James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in 2017 that one way to determine whether the regime intended to use nuclear coercion was to look to whether it developed more accurate HGVs.

“One possible indicator of China’s intentions is the accuracy of its glider,” Acton said. “For a conventionally armed glider to be militarily effective, it must have an accuracy of a few meters. A nuclear-armed glider would be effective if it were 10 or even 100 times less accurate.”

The CCP has now developed and tested its glider and, when the regime launched its HGV last year, it ultimately landed some 24 miles from target. Too far away for a conventional warhead to matter, but not for a nuclear one.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master’s in military history from Norwich University.

No Progress with New Obama-Iran Deal

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi speaks after a board of governors' meeting in Vienna. AFP
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi speaks after a board of governors’ meeting in Vienna. AFP

UN nuclear chief: ‘No progress’ in resolving issues with Iran

Head of International Atomic Energy Agency calls efforts to co-operate with Tehran ‘not very successful’

Tim Stickings

Nov 16, 2022

Beta V.1.0 – Powered by automated translation

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday that efforts to get Iran to co-operate with inspectors were not bearing fruit.

Director General Rafael Grossi reported “no progress” to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency at the start of a three-day meeting in Vienna.

He said inspectors were in the dark about a “mass of activity” in Iran because cameras and monitoring equipment were disconnected.

It came as Iran said there was no plan for the IAEA to visit Tehran to resolve issues linked to unexplained nuclear traces.

Mr Grossi said the IAEA cannot be sure that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful until those issues are resolved.

But he said at a press conference after Wednesday’s meeting that he could not force Iran to co-operate.

“It’s their obligation to provide us with information we need and we are trying to find ways and mechanisms. We have been trying to do this for many, many months,” he said.

“So far, we haven’t been very successful.”

The nuclear tension comes against the backdrop of protests in Iran and alleged links to in the war in Ukraine that have further soured relations with the West.

Tehran denies any ambition to develop a nuclear weapon, but in a report to the board on Wednesday, Mr Grossi described increased uranium enrichment by Iran to the level of 60 per cent.

Board members including Britain, France and Germany have said that Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at that level.

The IAEA's 35-member board is holding a three-day meeting at UN offices in Vienna. EPA
The IAEA’s 35-member board is holding a three-day meeting at UN offices in Vienna. EPA

Mr Grossi said large amounts of data were missing in Iran because IAEA cameras and monitoring equipment had been switched off.

“There is a mass of activity about which we don’t know anything,” he said.

Iran has openly flouted its promises to limit enrichment since the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal four years ago.

Talks to revive that deal are at an impasse, with the US saying this week that the pact was not a priority.

“Our focus is not an accord that isn’t moving forward, but what is happening in Iran,” Washington’s special envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Monday.

The US has rejected what it calls unacceptable Iranian attempts to link the deal to the end of the IAEA’s investigation.

Mr Grossi told the 35-member board he had “serious concern that there has been no progress in clarifying and resolving the outstanding safeguard issues during this reporting period”.

“They need to be resolved for the agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful,” he said.

The Risk of Nuclear War is Real: Revelation 16

The risk that Russia will go nuclear in Ukraine is real

Still unclear what might trigger move by Vladimir Putin

Ian Bremmer

November 18, 2022 17:00 JST

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with a soldier at a military training center for mobilized reservists on Oct. 20: Russia’s president has backed himself into a corner. (Handout photo from Kremlin Press Office)   © AP

Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media and author of “The Power of Crisis.”

Will Russia use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine? It is a question Western intelligence services are working on around the clock and that Western leaders are carefully weighing.

President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia reserves the right to do so. As a result, even when he appears to talk down the possibility, the risk that we are closer to nuclear confrontation than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis becomes an inescapable reality.

On the one hand, Putin has few good options for winning his war. His military has demonstrated over the past nine months that it is incapable of achieving the objectives their leader has laid out.

Russian troops were not properly prepared for this conflict, their weapons are old and defective, the Ukrainians have fought back effectively, the West has armed and financed Ukraine’s government and military, and Russian morale is unsurprisingly low as a result. Russian troops may be able to defend some of the ground they took in the first weeks of the war, but they appear incapable of taking new territory.

Russia can inflict pain on the Ukrainian people, but it cannot defeat the Ukrainians on the ground. In short, Russia cannot win Putin’s war, and an emboldened Ukraine sees no reason to compromise.

Yet Putin’s rhetoric signals that his maximalist goals remain. He insists the U.S. is using Ukraine to cripple Russia and that only the total subjugation of Ukraine and its reintegration into a greater Russia can save his country. There is no public search for a compromise, which no one is offering in any case.

In addition, there are many voices in Russian media, including political and military officials, who echo the nuclear threat. In Russia, that is only possible because the Kremlin allows it.

There is no question the Kremlin is feeling pressure to show results in Ukraine. Putin understands that it is much easier to earn support for his war at home if it requires no sacrifice from the Russian people, and he may have been emboldened by Russia’s ability to absorb the first waves of Western pressure on his country’s economy to believe that he could win his war on those terms.

Since then, however, reality has intruded. Though he continues to insist Russia is not at war, Putin has had to order the mobilization of 300,000 more troops to prevent a military collapse. Russians can plainly see that many of their countrymen have headed for the borders to avoid service.

Putin can hide what is happening in Ukraine from the Russian people, but he cannot hide what is happening in Russia, and with no success to show for his special military operation, he is running out of ways to push Ukraine, Europe and America back on their heels. In short, Russia’s president has backed himself into a corner.

Russians approach the country’s border with Georgia on Sept. 29 after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization: The president cannot hide what is happening in his country.   © AP

Might the use of a nuclear weapon against Ukraine offer him a way out?

Putin has made plenty of empty threats in the past. When the governments of Finland and Sweden first proposed joining NATO, Russian officials warned of unspecified catastrophic consequences.

The two countries applied for membership anyway, doubling the length of the Russia-NATO land border at a stroke. In response, Russia did virtually nothing, probably because it had no effective options.

In response to Ukraine’s recent advances against Russian troops, Putin announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces that include much territory that his soldiers do not, and cannot, control. By insisting this land was now part of Russia, he claimed that any continuation of the war in these areas would draw a forceful Russian military response.

Ukraine and its Western backers made immediately clear they had no intention of respecting these claims and called Russia’s bluff by continuing the war as before. Russia has launched artillery attacks against Ukrainian cities and important infrastructure targets, but none of these responses make much difference in the balance of power on the battlefield.

When Russian ships in the Black Sea were attacked with nautical drones, Russia renounced its support for a deal brokered by the U.N. and Turkey that allowed Ukrainian grain to leave port for sale in other countries.

The implicit threat was that Russia might attack the ships. The shipments continued anyway, and Putin, realizing that attacking cargo ships filled with grain bound for hungry people in other countries served no purpose, reversed course again.

At what point do all these defeats, bluffs called and humiliations lead Putin to think the unthinkable? Putin’s true red line might be the border of Crimea, the peninsula that Russia seized and annexed in 2014.

Western governments have taken note of the effort that Russian officials have made to warn that Ukraine might use a dirty bomb to force overwhelming Western retaliation against Russia. No one in Washington or in European capitals believes Ukraine will use a radiological weapon against its own people to fool them into attacking Russia, but some worry the Kremlin has pushed this story to boost its own deniability in the court of global public opinion if Russia itself were to use such a weapon.

A further question: How would the West respond if Russia did use a dirty bomb or tactical nuclear weapon? Political leaders themselves will not say, but most well-informed military analysts say the U.S. would not respond with a nuclear weapon of its own or attack Russian territory.

But it would attack Russian positions inside Ukraine, damage or destroy Russia’s Black Sea fleet, and quickly end the war in Ukraine’s favor. That is certainly the message Washington wants the Kremlin to hear and consider.

In that truly awful scenario, the world would find itself in uncharted territory. The risks would be much higher than in 1962.

During the Cuban missile crisis, there was just one casualty — the pilot of an American spy plane. No one knew about that loss until after the crisis was resolved. The scenario mentioned above in Ukraine would leave thousands of dead Russian soldiers and a gutted Russian army and navy. This is not a scenario that anyone in power in Moscow, Washington or Europe is prepared to see.

Yet this is the risk the world now faces. There is no sign Russia has changed the alert level of its nuclear forces. The risk is low, but not nearly low enough, given the stakes.

In the coming weeks, winter will come to Ukraine. The fighting will slow. In the main, the war will freeze. But this will only delay caref

Antichrist calls on the judiciary to dissolve Parliament within a week

Iraqi cleric Sadr calls on the judiciary to dissolve Parliament within a week

Powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Iraq’s judiciary on Wednesday to dissolve parliament by the end of next week, threatening vague consequences if it does not do as he says.

The populist leader has helped fuel tensions in Iraq over the past two weeks by ordering thousands of supporters to storm and occupy Parliament, preventing the formation of a government nearly 10 months after the election.

His political opponents, mostly Iranian-backed Shiites, have refused to accede to Sadr’s demands, raising fears of further unrest and violence in Iraq.

The judiciary “should dissolve Parliament by the end of next week…if not, the revolutionaries will take another stand,” Sadr said in a statement on his Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) account, without elaborating.

Sadr has called for early elections and unspecified changes to the constitution after withdrawing his lawmakers from parliament in June.

The withdrawal was a protest at his inability to form a government despite holding almost a quarter of Parliament and having enough allies to make up more than half of the chamber.

Sadr blames Iran-aligned parties for the failure to form a government and accuses them of corruption, but his supporters also control some of the worst-run government departments.

New IAEA Puts Pressure on the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel

IAEA Director General Grossi addresses the media after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi has rejected Iranian claims that the agency has been politicised and said that said Tehran needs to ‘start delivering something’ [File: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger]

New IAEA resolution censures Iran over insufficient cooperation

Iran continues to demand that an inquiry into nuclear particles found at its nuclear sites must be dropped.

By Maziar Motamedi

Published On 17 Nov 202217 Nov 2022

A new resolution censuring Iran over insufficient cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been passed by the nuclear watchdog’s board of governors despite objections by Tehran.

Introduced by the United States, and the E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – the resolution on Thursday called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation into traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites, diplomats at the vote said.

The agency and the West have repeatedly called on Iran to provide thorough explanations on traces of man-made nuclear particles found at several Iranian sites in 2018, and for it to fully reinstate agency monitoring capabilities.

This is the second such resolution against Tehran as another – also introduced by the US and E3 – was passed in June, with only China and Russia objecting to it.

Iran took down a number of agency cameras after that resolution, adding to the cameras it had taken down when the US unilaterally reneged on the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. But the US abandoned it in 2018, imposing harsh sanctions. Talks to restore the deal began in April 2021 but have again stalled in recent months.

Iran has maintained the case of the IAEA probe into nuclear particles needs to be closed before any agreement on restoring the JCPOA can be finalised. It restarted talks with the agency in late September.

In a statement earlier on Thursday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani condemned the resolution, linking it with the country’s continuing protests without directly mentioning them.

With the resolution, he said the US and EU are trying to “take advantage of recent conditions, strictly with the motivation and goal of exerting political pressure on Iran”.

Kanani claimed there is “no credible technical reason or safeguards urgency” to back the resolution, and said its passing would negatively affect future Iranian relations with the agency.

Speaking to reporters after the first day of the Board of Governors meetings on Wednesday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi rejected Iranian claims that the agency has been politicised and said Tehran needs to “start delivering something”.

On Wednesday, Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami also condemned the tabling of the resolution and suggested it could affect future talks with the agency.

“If they had goodwill and wanted to continue the talks, naturally they wouldn’t table a resolution of these dimensions,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

In what appeared to be an early Iranian response to the resolution, Eslami also said the planned visit by the IAEA to Tehran that the agency had announced last week “is, for now, not on the agenda”.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amirabdollahian had told local reporters on Wednesday prior to the resolution that the US is acting “hypocritically” about the nuclear deal as it publicly says the nuclear talks are no longer a priority amid Iran’s protests, but continues to send messages privately.

“Our latest exchange of messages took place in less than the previous 72 hours. The Americans send messages to us through some foreign ministers that they are in a hurry for the JCPOA,” he said.

“Their goals are very clear; they want to put us under pressure so we would cross our red lines in the negotiations. But what matters to us in the exchange of messages and in the negotiations are the national interests of our dear people and we will not violate this, but we will strongly continue our work in the negotiations to lift the sanctions.”


Antichrist Maintains Silence amid Dispute between Opponents, Allies

Sadr Maintains Silence amid Dispute between Opponents, Allies

Thursday, 15 September, 2022 – 10:45

Iraqi protesters storm into the parliament building. (AFP)

Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraq’s Sunni Sovereignty Alliance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) announced that they were in favor of holding early elections, provided that they would be supervised by a government with full powers.

The head of Al-Sadrist Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, had called on his allies to follow his step and withdraw from Parliament.

However, the recent decision of the two parties was seen by the forces of the Shiite Coordination Framework as an implicit support for their stance regarding holding elections and forming the next government, through a parliamentary session.

Al-Sadr, who did not respond to the announcement of his former allies, also ignored calls made by parties within the Coordination Framework about the importance of communicating with him to form a new government, amid differences that began to emerge within the ranks of the Framework forces.

Well-informed political sources noted that the undeclared truce imposed by Al-Arbaeen march to the city of Karbala, at the conclusion of the Ashura rituals, did not push the conflicting parties to resolve their dispute.

The forces of the Coordination Framework, which clashed with Sadr’s supporters in Baghdad’s Green Zone about two weeks ago, are not about to present any concession, especially with regards to dissolving Parliament or accepting that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi supervise the early elections, along with President Barham Salih.

In an attempt to overcome the obstacle that prevents the appointment of a prime minister without electing a president, the Coordination Framework is seeking to persuade the two Kurdish parties (the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union) to resolve the node of the president’s election.

While Massoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, found in Sadr’s call to keep Barham Salih an opportunity for a rapprochement with the Coordination Framework, the latter, which is already divided over the stance towards Sadr, is now witnessing internal divisions over the term of Salih and Kadhimi. This situation is further complicating efforts to reach a solution, amid fears of a resurgence of street clashes.