America’s Next Big Quake Doug Fabrizio The devastation wrought in Mexico City by a recent massive earthquake may have rattled more than a few nerves along the Wasatch Front. Salt Lake City is, of course, overdue for a significant seismic event. So are other places in the United States, such as Los Angeles, the Pacific Northwest, even New York City. In a new book, science writer Kathryn Miles tours the country in search of the latest research on America’s next big earthquake and what’s being done to address the threat. She joins us Wednesday to talk about it. Kathryn Miles is the author of several books, including her newest, Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake [Independent bookstores|Amazon|Audible]. Learn more about predicting earthquakes in Utah and how well the state’s buildings could stand-up to a great shake from KUER’s news team.
Concerns over the United States’ extended deterrence are growing in Tokyo and Seoul.
There are growing concerns in both Japan and South Korea over the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence, or nuclear umbrella.
For one thing, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has given East Asian policymakers and publics a big reason to believe that, in order to avoid a nuclear war, the United States will not take direct military action against nuclear-armed nations such as Russia. It is well remembered that U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out the option of U.S. military intervention in the early stage of the Russian invasion in 2022. He repeatedly vowed not to send U.S. troops to Ukraine. This sharply contrasts with the Gulf War (1990–91), when then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait and the United States-led coalition directly fought against Iraq.
This reinforces Tokyo’s and Seoul’s suspicions that the U.S. nuclear umbrella may have some “holes” and fail to provide real protection against other nuclear-weapons states, including China and North Korea, as well.
For another thing, Japan and South Korea need an enhanced nuclear deterrent to be provided by the United States because their neighbors, Russia and North Korea, began to issue direct threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in 2022.
Moreover, China, which does not hide its ambition to unify Taiwan by force, is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. It is likely to have a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by 2035, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Beijing’s military developments, published in November.
In such a severe security environment, non-nuclear weapons states Tokyo and Seoul can no longer remain at peace without the United States’ strong nuclear deterrent. For them, the biggest lesson of the Ukraine war is that any country that is not under the nuclear umbrella of the United States can be easily invaded by a rogue state.
In Tokyo, such concerns have been often raised by former high-ranking national security officials. Most notably, in November, retired admiral Kawano Katsutoshi, the longest-serving chief of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff under the Abe Shinzo administration, cast doubt on the effectiveness of the current U.S. nuclear deterrence. He proposed that Tokyo have various options, such as nuclear sharing with the United States.
“Regarding the United States’ nuclear umbrella, even if Washington says, ‘you don’t have to worry about it,’ a suspicion crosses my mind. Is it really okay?” Kawano said in a speech in Tokyo on November 20.
“Even if the U.S. government says it will guarantee it 100 percent, a US president changes every four or eight years. It’s a democratic country, so its domestic public opinion always sways. The U.S. Congress is greatly influenced by public opinion,” Kawano said.
The retired admiral specifically pointed out that former U.S. President Donald Trump used to profess Americans shouldn’t sacrifice their lives to fight for other nations under his “America First” policy.
The late Abe Shinzo, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, said in late February 2022 that Tokyo should break a long-standing taboo and hold an open discussion on nuclear weapons – including a possible “nuclear-sharing” program similar to that of NATO – in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In Seoul, there is also an increased sense that a more muscular approach is necessary to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula. Now 71 percent of South Koreans are in favor of developing Seoul’s own homegrown nuclear weapons, according to a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2022.
Most recently, different opinions on the issue of the U.S. nuclear arsenal seem to have emerged between the leaders of the United States and South Korea.
“The nuclear weapons belong to the United States, but planning, information sharing, exercises, and training should be jointly conducted by South Korea and the United States,” Yoon said in the interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
But when U.S. President Joe Biden was asked at White House on January 2 whether Washington and Seoul are discussing joint nuclear exercises, he replied, “No.”
“As the president said, we are not discussing joint nuclear exercises. [South Korea] is a non-nuclear weapons state,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson also said on the same day.
But in response to Biden’s remarks, South Korea’s presidential office again said in a statement that the allies are “in talks over information-sharing, joint planning and the joint implementation plans that follow with regard to the operation of U.S. nuclear assets to respond to North Korea’s nuclear weapons.”
The different framings represent the competing interest of both governments. While the Biden administration wants to soft-pedal any notion of nuclear-sharing with a non-nuclear weapons state, South Korea’s government feels an urgent need to demonstrate to its public that Seoul is an equal partner in the U.S. extended deterrence equation.
To deal with the growing nuclear threats posed by China, North Korea and Russia, an unswerving U.S. commitment to extended nuclear deterrence through the full range of U.S. defense capabilities is becoming increasingly essential. Otherwise, more and more people would argue that both South Korea and Japan should stand on their own without relying entirely on the United States – even if that means developing their own nuclear weapons.Authors
Takahashi Kosuke is Tokyo Correspondent for Janes Defence Weekly.
Between August and September, as President Vladimir Putin indicated Russia would be willing to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory, Cold River targeted the Brookhaven (BNL), Argonne (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), according to internet records that showed the hackers creating fake login pages for each institution and emailing nuclear scientists in a bid to make them reveal their passwords.
Reuters was unable to determine why the labs were targeted or if any attempted intrusion was successful. A BNL spokesperson declined to comment. LLNL did not respond to a request for comment. An ANL spokesperson referred questions to the US Department of Energy, which declined to comment.
Cold River has escalated its hacking campaign against Kyiv’s allies since the invasion of Ukraine, according to cybersecurity researchers and western government officials. The digital blitz against the US labs occurred as UN experts entered Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory to inspect Europe’s biggest atomic power plant and assess the risk of what both sides said could be a devastating radiation disaster amid heavy shelling nearby.
Cold River, which first appeared on the radar of intelligence professionals after targeting Britain’s foreign office in 2016, has been involved in dozens of other high-profile hacking incidents in recent years, according to interviews with nine cybersecurity firms. Reuters traced email accounts used in its hacking operations between 2015 and 2020 to an IT worker in the Russian city of Syktyvkar.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the domestic security agency that also conducts espionage campaigns for Moscow, and Russia’s embassy in Washington did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Western officials say the Russian government is a global leader in hacking and uses cyber-espionage to spy on foreign governments and industries to seek a competitive advantage. However, Moscow has consistently denied that it carries out hacking operations.
Reuters showed its findings to five industry experts who confirmed the involvement of Cold River in the attempted nuclear labs hacks, based on shared digital fingerprints that researchers have historically tied to the group.
In May, Cold River broke into and leaked emails belonging to the former head of Britain’s MI6 spy service. That was just one of several ‘hack and leak’ operations last year by Russia-linked hackers in which confidential communications were made public in Britain, Poland and Latvia, according to cybersecurity experts and Eastern European security officials.
Hamas publishes a memoir written by archterrorist Hassan Salameh about several bus bombings he was behind.
By World Israel News Staff
A senior Hamas official said the terror group was “headed toward another round of resistance and conflict” with Israel on Thursday, during an event marking the 27th anniversary of the killing of its chief bombmaker.
Saleh Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas’ politburo who is currently based in Lebanon, boasted that Hamas was readying itself for another victory.
The event included a book launch of a Hamas-published work titled, “The Buses are Burning,” referencing Israeli buses targeted by suicide bombers. The book was authored by Hassan Salameh, who is serving 46 consecutive life sentences for orchestrating three large-scale terror attacks in Israel.
The memoir recounts how Salameh and his accomplices planned the attacks.
It’s launch, which was organized by Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, coincided with the anniversary of the killing of Yahya Ayyash, who was known as “The Engineer” because of his expertise in bombmaking. Ayyash was killed by the Shin Bet security agency with a cellphone that exploded during a phone call with his father in 1996.
Salameh said in a message from his prison cell that the terror attacks he was behind “will remain immortal in history and tell Palestinian generations the story of a will that transcended the impossible, performed miracles and exposed the Zionist entity’s fragility to the whole world.”
“We set out on a path fraught with dangers,” Salameh added. “We only had a few explosives and a few thousand dollars.”
US, European and Iranian diplomats explain how the negotiations on a return to the Iran nuclear deal have been eclipsed by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
A picture shows a newspaper stall with Etemad newspaper’s front page bearing a heading in Farsi, “The night of the end of the JCPOA,” in the capital Tehran on Aug. 16, 2022. – ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen on Tuesday that the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is more or less dead, according to a report in Israel Hayom.
While a senior US official speaking to Al-Monitor denied the report, the United States and Israel have nevertheless found common ground in focusing instead on Iran’s brutal crackdown on protesters and its backing of Russia in Ukraine.
The blame game around the nuclear talks has intensified as hopes to revive the deal fade.
US and European sources say Iran dithered and piled on demands when a deal was close on several occasions last year, most recently in September. Since then, Brussels and Washington have focused on a backup plan to isolate and pressure Tehran for its crackdown and its support for Russia.
“Western powers have a united approach. What is different is that some members are putting pressure on the human rights issue, such as Germany,” said the European diplomat. “The Ukraine war is contaminating all other dossiers, including the Iran nuclear program negotiations.”
The latest attempts to resume talks over reviving the nuclear deal saw Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visit Oman on Dec. 28 and meet top officials following a bilateral with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Jordan on the sidelines of the Iraq summit there on Dec. 20.
Some regarded the Amman meeting as a positive sign following months of deadlock, but Amir-Abdollahian warned, “If other parties, especially the US, do not stop the hypocrisy, it is not clear that the window that is open today will remain open tomorrow.”
Although Borrell has said that the EU is pursuing a two-track policy — reviving the JCPOA and putting pressure on Iran via sanctions — Brussels and Washington are aligned in their pessimism about the prospects for a deal.
Privately, EU officials have described “difficult and frank” meetings with Iranian officials. The EU diplomat told Al-Monitor, “Theirs is a huge problem that’s bigger than the JCPOA: Iran along with North Korea are the only countries providing weapons to Russia.”
EU diplomats have warned Iran of the consequences of its support for Russia, citing evidence of Iranian drones being used by Russian forces in Ukraine, but Tehran continues to deny the allegations. Its narrative has always been that it sent Russia a few drones before the war, but none later on.
Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief Gen. Vadym Skibitsky told local media Wednesday that Moscow had used approximately 660 Iranian-made drones in Ukraine so far. He added that as many as 300 new drones were arriving now as part of a contract with Iran.
“Iranians have the best diplomats and they are aware that they are getting more and more isolated,” said the EU diplomat. “But the power isn’t in the Foreign Ministry, nor with [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi,” the official added, alluding to it being in the hands of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Mousavian, who was a member of the nuclear negotiating team between 2003 and 2009, told Al-Monitor, “The nuclear deal is on the agenda but not on the table.”
Mousavian said the internal situation in Iran has discouraged Western powers on the nuclear deal, explaining that they have decided to put the human rights issue above the nuclear file.
He accused the European countries of campaigning against Iran, saying, “Europeans are playing a more active role to create an international consensus against Iran, more because of the Ukraine issue. We can say that currently and compared to the US, the European have become “more Catholic than the Pope” in advancing hostile policies against Iran.”
The same senior US official, who is involved in the talks, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Over the past months, Iran’s leadership has made a series of extremely consequential and costly decisions.”
“Domestically, [they are] suppressing their people instead of listening to them; internationally, siding with Russia’s losing war of aggression; diplomatically, rejecting several fair deals that would have led to significant sanctions relief and refusing to cooperate with the IAEA.”
The US official added that such behavior comes with consequences and is “cutting off the regime from its people and from much of the world. They should think about whether this is the path they wish to be on and where it is leading.”
These accusations were refuted by an Iranian official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Tehran was committed from the beginning to reaching an agreement, but the politicization of the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency prevented that,” he insisted.
The official accused Washington of prioritizing the interest of Israel, saying, “Israel does not want a nuclear agreement or the lifting of sanctions on Tehran and the US abides by that; it’s very simple.”
He claimed that the Western powers are stalling in preparation for military options, “just as they did with Russia since 2014 after the Minsk agreement.” He alleged that former German Chancellor Angela “Merkel said it clearly: They were buying time for Ukraine’s arms buildup and they’ve been doing the same with Iran, but it didn’t work. Why shall we trust them when they didn’t stand by their commitments?”. The former Chancellor has not made such statement.
The narrative on the other side is different. Western officials are accusing Iran of buying time to proceed with its nuclear program, another rationale for not letting up on sanctions.
The senior US official warned that his country will not stand by idly as Iran continues to expand its nuclear program, saying, “We will not stop tightening our economic pressure.”
“While they are spending their time building a nuclear program that will not provide them with any benefit, we are spending our time building the broadest international consensus ever to oppose it and the regime’s other destabilizing policies,” the official added.
Iran is “piling enriched uranium but not going toward the bomb,” said the EU diplomat. “They are in control if their whole nuclear cycle is still not crossing the red lines.”
Prior to the war in Ukraine, US accusations regarding what it describes as Iran’s destabilizing policies were limited to the Middle East, but reports of Iran supplying Russia with drones positioned Tehran at the heart of the emerging conflict, the big question here is over the extent of the Iranian meddling and whether it reaches the level of Western accusations of providing Russia with new drones.
“Despite all of the regime’s denials, there can be no doubt anymore in anyone’s mind that they are siding with the aggressor,” said the senior US official, adding that this is a very consequential decision. “They are the number-one military supplier of a country waging an unprovoked war of conquest and aggression in Europe. Our hope, of course, is that they quickly shift course.”
The official assessed that following the fruitless talks in September and the eruption of the protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody, Washington has shifted its focus to supporting the protesters.
He said, “Our focus is on supporting the fundamental rights of the Iranian people who are facing a brutal crackdown, sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses and on taking steps to disrupt and deter the regime’s support for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” while “keeping the door to diplomacy open because we still believe that is the best way to resolve this issue.”
The European diplomat said that one casualty of the breakdown in the JCPOA talks may be a deal to release US prisoners held in Iran, where three US citizens are currently imprisoned.
“A prisoner deal was finalized but has not materialized,” the official said.
The US official insisted that indirect engagement continues with Iran to secure the release of US citizens detained in Iran. “We’ve continued to have indirect engagements with Iran in particular on the issue of our unjustly detained citizens Siamak [Namazi], Morad [Tahbaz] and Emad [Shargi]. It has been and remains a priority for the Biden administration to make sure they return home as soon as possible.”
Until there is a resolution of the Ukraine war, the European diplomat concluded, there will be no progress on the nuclear deal.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Pro-war Russians are increasingly blaming Moscow for its demonstrated military failings in the conflict. The pressure on Vladimir Putin to win the war by any means is steadily increasing. For example, Ukraine is warning that Russia is likely to respond to its latest setback by stepping up the use of Iranian-made exploding drones. Some experts are concerned that if Russia continues to lose, Putin may launch a nuclear strike on Kyiv to affect regime change by killing the Ukrainian government.
Against this escalating backdrop, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met recently to strengthen their partnership. China has repeatedly refused to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, consistently blaming the conflict on NATO and the United States instead. Putin said of their relationship, “We share the same views on the causes, course, and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape.” Xi said that the two countries should “strengthen strategic coordination” to oppose “bullying” by other nations.
This growing partnership is of obvious concern to the US and the West. However, it should especially alarm all Americans for two less than obvious reasons.
“The equivalent of tactical nuclear weapons”
Niall Ferguson has been called “the most brilliant British historian of his generation.” A Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a senior faculty fellow at Harvard, he is the author of an illuminating and frightening new essay published by Bloomberg. In it, he warns that “Cold War II could become World War III in 2023.”
And he explains why the US is in a precarious position to fight such a war.
Ferguson notes that war is “about the mobilization of real resources” needed by combatants to sustain the conflict while providing for their populations and powering their industries. In World War I, these resources were “coal, iron, and the manufacturing capacity to mass-produce artillery and shells, as well as steamships.” In World War II, they were “oil, steel, aluminum, and the manufacturing capacity to mass-produce artillery, ships, submarines, planes, and tanks.” After World War II, “it was all of the above, plus the scientific and technical capacity to produce nuclear weapons.”
Today, he notes, “the vital inputs are the capacity to mass-produce high-performance semiconductors, satellites, and the algorithmic warfare systems that depend on them.” Such systems are “the equivalent of tactical nuclear weapons” in their devastating capacities.
We depend on 61,000 ships
Ferguson explains that this is a major problem for the US, for two reasons.
One: Russia clearly lacks the algorithmic warfare systems that the US and our allies have been supplying to Ukraine, which means that Vladimir Putin may eventually be driven to use actual nuclear weapons to avoid losing the war he started. Such a scenario could lead to nuclear escalation that could threaten the US and the world.
Two: Ferguson notes that China “is dominant in the processing of minerals that are vital to the modern economy, including copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium. In particular, China controls over 70 percent of rare earth production both in terms of extraction and processing. These are seventeen minerals used to make components in devices such as smartphones, electric vehicles, solar panels, and semiconductors.”
In addition, “the US long ago ceased to be a manufacturing economy,” now importing much of what we need from the rest of the world. Most of these internationally traded goods are imported in six million containers transported in approximately sixty-one thousand ships. And China’s Shanghai Westwell Lab Information Technology Co. “is rapidly becoming the leading vendor of the most advanced port-operating systems.”
As a result, a conventional war with China could severely cripple our ability to produce the technological devices our military needs and import the goods our people require.
Dr. King’s definition of “true peace”
Ferguson’s article is further illustration of the fact that peace has been elusive for humans since Cain murdered Abel at the dawn of history. This is because we pursue peace as an object, a goal, when it is actually a consequence of prior priorities.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
Here we see that peace comes from righteousness (the Hebrew word means to do what is right and honest), which comes from knowing and doing the truth. And, as Jesus made clear, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
“No God, no peace”
Imagine a world in which everyone lived by the truth of God’s word. Imagine the personal and corporate righteousness that would result.