East Coast Still Unprepared For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

East Coast Earthquake Preparedness
Posted: 08/25/2011 8:43 am EDT
WASHINGTON — There were cracks in the Washington Monument and broken capstones at the National Cathedral. In the District of Columbia suburbs, some people stayed in shelters because of structural concerns at their apartment buildings.
A day after the East Coast’s strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspectors assessed the damage and found that most problems were minor. But the shaking raised questions about whether this part of the country, with its older architecture and inexperience with seismic activity, is prepared for a truly powerful quake.
The 5.8 magnitude quake felt from Georgia north to Canada prompted swift inspections of many structures Wednesday, including bridges and nuclear plants. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks, if not longer. And many people will not be covered by insurance.
In a small Virginia city near the epicenter, the entire downtown business district was closed. School was canceled for two weeks to give engineers time to check out cracks in several buildings.
At the 555-foot Washington Monument, inspectors found several cracks in the pyramidion – the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point.
A 4-foot crack was discovered Tuesday during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. Late Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that structural engineers had found several additional cracks inside the top of the monument.
Carol Johnson, a park service spokeswoman, could not say how many cracks were found but said three or four of them were “significant.” Two structural engineering firms that specialize in assessing earthquake damage were being brought in to conduct a more thorough inspection on Thursday.
The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation’s capital, was to remain closed indefinitely, and Johnson said the additional cracks mean repairs are likely to take longer. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.
Tourists arrived at the monument Wednesday morning only to find out they couldn’t get near it. A temporary fence was erected in a wide circle about 120 feet from the flags that surround its base. Walkways were blocked by metal barriers manned by security guards.
“Is it really closed?” a man asked the clerk at the site’s bookstore.
“It’s really closed,” said the clerk, Erin Nolan. Advance tickets were available for purchase, but she cautioned against buying them because it’s not clear when the monument will open.
“This is pretty much all I’m going to be doing today,” Nolan said.
Tuesday’s quake was centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, 90 miles south of Washington and 3.7 miles underground. In the nearby town of Mineral, Va., Michael Leman knew his Main Street Plumbing & Electrical Supply business would need – at best – serious and expensive repairs.
At worst, it could be condemned. The facade had become detached from the rest of the building, and daylight was visible through a 4- to 6-inch gap that opened between the front wall and ceiling.
“We’re definitely going to open back up,” Leman said. “I’ve got people’s jobs to look out for.”
Leman said he is insured, but some property owners might not be so lucky.
The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available.
The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.
The U.S. Geological Survey classified the quake as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.
In Culpeper, Va., about 35 miles from the epicenter, walls had buckled at the old sanctuary at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, which was constructed in 1821 and drew worshippers including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Heavy stone ornaments atop a pillar at the gate were shaken to the ground. A chimney from the old Culpeper Baptist Church built in 1894 also tumbled down.
At the Washington National Cathedral, spokesman Richard Weinberg said the building’s overall structure remains sound and damage was limited to “decorative elements.”
Massive stones atop three of the four spires on the building’s central tower broke off, crashing onto the roof. At least one of the spires is teetering badly, and cracks have appeared in some flying buttresses.
Repairs were expected to cost millions of dollars – an expense not covered by insurance.
“Every single portion of the exterior is carved by hand, so everything broken off is a piece of art,” Weinberg said. “It’s not just the labor, but the artistry of replicating what was once there.”
The building will remain closed as a precaution. Services to dedicate the memorial honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were moved.
Other major cities along the East Coast that felt the shaking tried to gauge the risk from another quake.
A few hours after briefly evacuating New York City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s newer buildings could withstand a more serious earthquake. But, he added, questions remain about the older buildings that are common in a metropolis founded hundreds of years ago.
“We think that the design standards of today are sufficient against any eventuality,” he said. But “there are questions always about some very old buildings. … Fortunately those tend to be low buildings, so there’s not great danger.”
An earthquake similar to the one in Virginia could do billions of dollars of damage if it were centered in New York, said Barbara Nadel, an architect who specializes in securing buildings against natural disasters and terrorism.
The city’s 49-page seismic code requires builders to prepare for significant shifting of the earth. High-rises must be built with certain kinds of bracing, and they must be able to safely sway at least somewhat to accommodate for wind and even shaking from the ground, Nadel said.
Buildings constructed in Boston in recent decades had to follow stringent codes comparable to anything in California, said Vernon Woodworth, an architect and faculty member at the Boston Architectural College. New construction on older structures also must meet tough standards to withstand severe tremors, he said.
It’s a different story with the city’s older buildings. The 18th- and 19th-century structures in Boston’s Back Bay, for instance, were often built on fill, which can liquefy in a strong quake, Woodworth said. Still, there just aren’t many strong quakes in New England.
The last time the Boston area saw a quake as powerful as the one that hit Virginia on Tuesday was in 1755, off Cape Ann, to the north. A repeat of that quake would likely cause deaths, Woodworth said. Still, the quakes are so infrequent that it’s difficult to weigh the risks versus the costs of enacting tougher building standards regionally, he said.
People in several of the affected states won’t have much time to reflect before confronting another potential emergency. Hurricane Irene is approaching the East Coast and could skirt the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend and make landfall in New England after that.
In North Carolina, officials were inspecting an aging bridge that is a vital evacuation route for people escaping the coastal barrier islands as the storm approaches.
Speaking at an earthquake briefing Wednesday, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inadvertently mixed up his disasters.
“Everyone knows, obviously, that we had a hurricane,” he said before realizing his mistake.
“Hurricane,” he repeated sheepishly as reporters and staffers burst into laughter. “I’m getting ahead of myself!”
Associated Press writers Sam Hananel in Washington; Alex Dominguez in Baltimore; Bob Lewis in Mineral, Va.; Samantha Gross in New York City; and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Can South Korea be a Nuclear Middle Power?

Published October 28, 2022
Author: Jeffrey Robertson

Recent debates on South Korea securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity have addressed several issues, including strategic relevance and operational utility, its impact on the U.S. alliance, how it will affect the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula, and its contribution to the regional arms competition. Less discussed has been the question of South Korea as a “nuclear middle power” – an oxymoron to many scholars of middle power diplomacy.

The modern conceptualization of the middle power was born in the heyday of liberal internationalism with the formation of the United Nations in the 1940s. Up until the late 1960s, individual middle powers toyed with the idea of securing nuclear weapons. Australia and Canada at certain stages sought nuclear armament. However, their renunciation of that aim soon became associated with the wider aura of “do-goodism” or “good international citizenship” which from that point onwards, marked the concept.

During the 1970s, middle powers were instrumental in establishing a number of highly important international conventions against nuclear weapons. Australia and Canada led the fight for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to control the spread of nuclear weapons and played important roles in review conferences. They played roles in the establishment of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which sought to establish controls on precursor materials, and the Canberra Commission, which sought to reduce the spread and eliminate nuclear weapons. Through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), middle powers fought against the testing and unrestrained expansion of nuclear arsenals.

One of the most characteristic middle power campaigns of the 1980s was the Australian and New Zealand effort to end French nuclear testing in the Pacific. This brought together all the characteristics of middle power diplomacy – middle powers building a coalition of smaller states in the Pacific acting across multiple multilateral forums in coordination with NGOs to constrain the actions of a major power while addressing good international citizen issues of arms control and the environment. Middle powers, almost by definition, have been against the spread of nuclear weapons.

How then, have we arrived at a situation in which a leading middle power is in the midst of a debate to secure an independent nuclear weapons capacity?

There are three potential academic answers to this question – and none of them give an adequate answer.

First, South Korea may not be a middle power. I’ve said it before, there are certain characteristics that distinguish South Korea from other middle powers: it was a late entrant; has never espoused the same consistency in values; is not inherently a status quo power; and to a degree lacks institutional capacity and depth. South Korea holds different positions from ‘ideal type’ middle powers, such as Canada and Australia on topics including the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Russia/Ukraine. As noted by other scholars, for South Korea, being a middle power is as much about status as it is about identity.

Second, middle powers as conceptualized in the 1980s, may no longer exist. Middle powers could be synchronic classification – a typology that cannot exist outside its specific timeframe of the post-war, Cold War, and post-Cold War era. Remove the liberal-internationalist context of the time period, and the structures that supported their existence also disappear. We no longer have Occidental Powers, have largely forgotten Non-Aligned Powers, and rarely use the term Superpowers. Why do we still use the term Middle Power? This could explain the gradual dissociation of traditional middle powers, such as Canada and Australia, from the concept.

In the same vein, an early middle power scholar noted that during periods of decreased security tension, middle powers balance major powers, and during periods of heightened security tension bandwagon with major powers. As South Korea has consistently been in an intermittent state of heightened security tension, its path as a middle power is distinct. Now, as China-U.S. tension increases, bandwagoning could be misconstrued as taking a greater burden by securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity.

Third, perhaps the scholars pushing middle power diplomacy were simply wrong all along. The entire concept was a chicken dressed up as a turkey. Created by diplomats and pushed by politicians, academics just ran with the concept without bothering to check whether it made sense within the discipline and the broader social sciences. There’s assumptions that were only ever true for a select few countries; no meaningful definitions; chocked-full of nuanced relationships to account for this or that case; and outright confusion as to which units should be measured. It’s a theoretical mess. As one scholar put it, everyone is a middle power now.

In the same vein, there’s a strong argument to be made that middle powers were always a product of U.S.-led liberal-internationalism. The characteristic diplomatic behaviors of niche diplomacy were never ascribed to Saudi Arabia’s support for the spread of Wahhabi Islam, nor was good international citizenship ascribed to Iran’s support for Palestine. From this point of view, the middle power project was merely a five-decade effort to distinguish a small number of U.S. Western allies from other states which they at the time, viewed as less important – with all the inherent racism that such an approach entails. Reflecting this, middle powers were anti-nuclear because they were already protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This potentially explains non-Western states, which are rarely called middle powers, such as India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, pursuing nuclear weapon programs.

There’s a lot to unpack in the above three academic answers. While how we use language and how we identify and label ourselves is important, whether South Korea’s calls itself a middle power or not, will do nothing to stop it securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity. Ultimately, it’s all just academic waffling. In the end, stopping South Korea from heading down the nuclear path requires less academic waffling, and more diplomacy.

Dr. Jeffery Robertson is Non-Resident Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute of America, an Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies at Yonsei University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Korea Studies Research Hub, University of Melbourne. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from sinano1000 photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

Biden & Obama open up the bank vault for Iran

Biden opens up the bank vault for Iran

FEBRUARY 03, 2022 07:00 AM


During his campaign for president, Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and promised to reverse it.

Whereas Trump embraced a policy of “maximum pressure” to compel Iran to cease terrorism, covert nuclear and ballistic missile work, and other rogue behavior, Biden and Rob Malley, his special envoy for Iran, took the opposite approach. They sought to entice Iran with incentives such as sanctions relief, unfreezing assets, and the liquidation of restricted-use escrow accounts.

The scale of the financial relief offered to Iran is now mind-boggling.

In May 2021, Malley was offering Iran relief equivalent to $7 billion, nearly equal to the budget of Iran’s entire conventional military for 2022. As Iranian negotiators stonewalled — they have not sat down with Malley or his team but instead insist on talking through intermediaries — Malley’s team upped the ante. Today, the Biden administration appears poised to provide Tehran with $12 billion, equivalent to a quarter of Iran’s total budget at the real exchange rate. This does not include, of course, the windfall Tehran seeks to gain from increased oil sales already augmented by lack of sanctions enforcement. This fund does not include off-budget spending, such as the oil revenue directly allocated to the Revolutionary Guards or the additional billions that Iran’s national oil company allocates for national stabilization and development but in actuality flows into Revolutionary Guards’ coffers.

Should Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accept Malley’s offer, the regime will receive an infusion of over $20 billion over the following year, essentially doubling the Revolutionary Guard’s budget. To put that conservative estimate in perspective , a suicide belt costs just $1,500, and the bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria that killed five Americans cost only $50,000.

Nor does the money now offered to Iran account for the billion-dollar ransoms that the Iranians expect for hostage releases. After all, ever since Jimmy Carter’s administration acquiesced to release Iranian funds in exchange for hostages and Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages, the Iranian regime simply seizes new hostages to use as chits in their negotiations.

The logic of Malley’s approach appears to be the belief that he can overcome the Iranian regime’s enmity by acquiescing to nearly all its demands. These need not only be financial — it could also be to acquiesce to Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon, support the Syrian regime’s rehabilitation, or to normalize Yemen’s Houthis at a time they increasingly attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with Iranian-made drones and missiles.

While Biden has criticized maximum pressure, the fact is such pressure has a track record of success. Maximum pressure and diplomatic isolation ended the Iran-Iraq War and, under President Barack Obama, a decline of 5.4% in Iran’s gross domestic product forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

The problem with Malley’s approach is that it has never worked. Ideology matters. Both Democrats and Republicans understood during the Cold War that the key to success was grinding down the Soviet economy, not subsidizing it. When the Clinton administration sought to provide food and oil to North Korea, Pyongyang diverted that assistance to the military and held on to its nuclear program. Decades of aid and concession to Russia and China did not end their enmity; they simply pocketed the cash and focused on their own military programs. Likewise, Palestinian terrorism has surged in direct proportion to Western and U.N. assistance.

Simply put, there is a reason why the Biden administration does not put Malley in front of Congress. If Congress asked Malley for any precedent of success or evidence that administration logic works, he could not answer the question. Malley is not gambling with the future security of America, its allies, and, for that matter, an Iranian public that increasingly despises the regime. Rather, he is selling out each one for nothing in return other than a future of terrorist bloodshed and nuclear blackmail.

Michael Rubin ( @mrubin1971 ) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

We Are Rapidly Approaching the Nuclear Apocalypse: Revelation 8

Pursuing nuclear weapons makes nations less, not more, secure

These are harsh times for arms control and non-proliferation. 

No new arms control initiatives are to be seen anywhere, and Russia’s cavalier disdain for the treaties it has signed, combined with China’s refusal to participate in this process ensures the continuation of this forbidding prospect. Moreover, Moscow’s violation of numerous treaties by virtue of its invasion of Ukraine includes violation of both the New START Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). At the same time, Moscow makes repeated nuclear threats that may be of diminishing credibility but which have inhibited Western responses

Meanwhile, proliferation is continuing in North Korea and Iran without any impediments. Iran reportedly possesses enough enriched uranium to build several nuclear weapons. North Korea, according to most estimates, has approximately 40-60 nuclear weapons and is busily building a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and shorter-range tactical nuclear missiles. As a result, North Korea is increasingly able to threaten the continental U.S., South Korea and Japan, despite 30 years of Western efforts to prevent Pyongyang from obtaining these weapons and capabilities. Both these states can point to Ukraine, as well as Libya and Iraq’s fate, as exemplifying what happens when a country voluntarily renounces nuclear weapons.   

These trends, in turn, are already generating counter-pressures among neighbors to emulate the example and also go nuclear. Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with nuclear weapons has long been known, and should Iran openly achieve nuclear weapon status, it may well follow suit. Similarly, thanks to North Korea’s nuclearization, unceasing missile tests and Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling, South Korean public opinion in favor of nuclearization has “exploded” in the last year. 

It would be much better if these nuclear malefactors followed a different example, namely that of Kazakhstan, which renounced nuclear weapons and pioneered in persuading its Central Asian neighbors to agree to create a nuclear weapon-free zone. As a result, Kazakhstan has actually strengthened its security, international standing and economic prospects — something that Iran and North Korea have signally failed to do and show little interest in pursuing. Guided by the vision of its founding president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and chastened by the recognition of the catastrophic consequences of Soviet nuclear testing in the country, upon becoming independent, Kazakhstan repudiated nuclear weapons and testing.   

This far-sighted and enlightened decision established at a single stroke Kazakhstan’s respectability and credibility, enhanced its security and international standing and laid the groundwork for its attractiveness as a global ally to other governments and international organizations. Those outcomes also contributed in no small measure to it becoming a magnet for foreign investment

Despite their nuclear programs, neither Iran nor North Korea has done any of these things on a global scale. Nor is it likely under their present governmental systems or mentalities that they will begin to do so. Paradoxically, the quest for weapons of mass destruction, including in North Korea’s case, potential biological and chemical weapons capability, has, if anything, magnified both nations’ own insecurities and those of all their neighbors, which have more than enough capability of their own to follow suit. 

As a result of these policies, Northeast Asia and the Middle East are two of the most dangerous regions in the world today, while Central Asia, though it faces the threat of Islamic terrorism from Afghanistan and serious environmental challenges, is much calmer than anyone would have expected 30 years ago when those states became independent. This outcome owes much to Nazarbayev’s vision and statesmanship. 

But the importance of the Kazakh example does not end here. Nazarbayev’s legacy provides a basis for progress because it shows aspirants to nuclear weapons that, rather than trying to intimidate their neighbors and interlocutors, there is an alternative path to security, status and even the possibility of prosperity. Also, it is not only the states pursuing nuclear weapons that are insecure. The obsession with insecurity seems to make neighbors just as insecure, whether it’s Ukraine in Russia’s case, Japan and South Korea in North Korea’s case, or all of the Middle East in Iran’s case.  

For this and many other reasons, we must continue to champion the cause of nonproliferation. Doing so works to remove one of the major factors for the perpetual uncertainty that afflicts too many regions of the world today, and even leads states to believe they can launch wars with impunity. 

Nazarbayev grasped that trying to possess nuclear weapons neither benefitted Kazakhstan nor enhanced its security. Nonproliferation can give Northeast Asia and the Middle East infinitely more than nuclear weapons can offer. We must continue to champion Nazarbayev’s insight to reverse the trend toward nuclearization, and with it, the trend toward war.

Stephen Blank, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). He is a former professor of Russian national security studies and national security affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College and a former MacArthur fellow at the U.S. Army War College. Blank is an independent consultant focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia.

Obama’s Plan Bears Bitter Fruit: Daniel 8

Mark Makela/Getty Images

‘In life, as in politics, incompetence can often explain more than bad ideas’MARK MAKELA/GETTY IMAGES

Obama’s Anti-Imperialist Fantasy Bears Bitter Fruit

The longer we refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the Iran deal, the greater a price we pay


JANUARY 08, 2023

The eventual fall of the Islamic Republic of Iran will reveal the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to have been one of the worst unforced strategic errors in the history of U.S. foreign policy. At home, the Islamic Republic is the enemy of perhaps 80% or more of its own people, who see it as a criminal entity that murders them in the streets. Abroad, the clerical regime sows further chaos and bloodshed, threatening the United States and its allies and earning the hatred of peoples across the Middle East. Locking the United States in a nearly decadelong embrace of a failing theocratic totalitarian state is a policy disaster of unrivaled proportions, driven by no apparent external necessity. So why is the Biden administration finding it so difficult to move on?

Oddly, or not, the answers—or nonanswers—to this mystery seem to reveal as much about the unique psyche of the American president at the time, Barack Obama, as they do about the decadelong policy debate on Iran that continues to consume Washington. Yet for some of his supporters and detractors, Obama was simply a practioner of fact-based geopolitics—even if the facts in the end were against him. In this view, Obama as president understood the Islamic Republic as posing a severe threat to American interests and forged a limited agreement to constrain a regime that would be even more dangerous with nuclear weapons. To these critics, he pursued the right goals, but was just remarkably bad at achieving them. A more experienced bargainer might have achieved a better deal.

Alternatively, to others, the explanation of what went wrong is rooted in the unique character and upbringing of the American leader himself. According to this reading, Obama’s choices were rooted in a personal distaste for Western imperialism and American power that was not shared by many of the deal’s supporters or its detractors. It was Obama’s own picture of the world, not any broader consensus view of how American power should be employed or conserved in the Middle East, that led him into a delusional engagement with anti-Western Sunni and Shiite actors, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic, and into a strategic realignment that strengthened these American adversaries against America’s traditional allies, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In life, as in politics, incompetence can often explain more than bad ideas. In this reading, Obama deserves more blame for his negotiating ineptitude with the mullahs than he does for some ill-conceived scheme of Middle East realignment that supercharged Persian regional power. The 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, was simply a bad deal that wouldn’t stop Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, not a bad idea rooted in anti-Western theories from the American faculty lounge, where Obama had spent considerable time. But then why are we still stuck backing such an obvious loser? 

Even as the clerical regime publicly disintegrates, JCPOA supporters continue to argue for the merits of a limited agreement that would even temporarily put Iran’s nuclear program “back in a box,” as Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, put it. Opponents counter that, more than seven years later, a return to the 2015 agreement would be even more wrongheaded than the original deal. Sunsets kick in over a few short years, and the regime would receive a windfall of an estimated $245 billion in sanctions relief in the first year, and over $1 trillion by 2030 when Iran’s nuclear program would be free and clear from meaningful limitations—rescuing a tottering, ill-intentioned and widely hated regime by pumping it full of cash that it would use to build nuclear weapons and sow regional chaos. The arms control paradigm, in which supporters and critics argue back and forth over what would constitute “a better deal,” is preventing a clear acknowledgement of Obama’s failure—and blocking the development of a workable strategy for dealing with current developments in Iran and throughout the region.

The faults of the JCPOA have been covered many times, including by this author. The Obama administration abandoned its negotiating leverage, provided mainly by a bipartisan Congress which passed biting economic sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2012 over the objections of the Obama White House. The administration concluded a flawed interim nuclear agreement in 2013, and an even worse final agreement in 2015. The eventual deal trashed decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to cease enriching uranium or reprocessing plutonium on its soil. While it temporarily delayed Iranian nuclear expansion, the deal ceded the right to develop nuclear fissile material to the Islamic Republic and contained a series of sunset provisions under which nuclear restrictions disappeared. These sunsets permitted Tehran to develop, over time, an industrial-size enrichment program, near-zero nuclear breakout capability, and an advanced centrifuge-powered sneak-out capacity, as even Obama himself acknowledged after the deal was concluded.

Many critics of the deal argued that a longer, stronger, and broader agreement was possible if Obama had maximized the pressure on the regime, including through a credible threat of military force. Indeed, the Trump administration came into office promising to do exactly that. Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, imposed crushing sanctions that ravaged the Islamic Republic’s finances, and dealt a serious blow to Iranian regional power with the joint Mossad-CIA killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most competent military strategist and most feared battlefield commander.

Analysts and partisans continue to debate what could have transpired if this “maximum pressure campaign” had lasted longer than two years. But Biden reversed Trump’s pressure strategy, looked the other way as Chinese purchases of Iranian oil spiked, and waited too long before tackling a massive clandestine sanctions network that earned the regime tens of billions of dollars in hard currency. Predictably this “maximum deference” approach, meant to lure Iran back to the bargaining table, has failed to deliver any agreement, including even a return to a weaker version of the JCPOA. Instead, Iran’s nuclear program has rapidly and dangerously expanded under Biden’s watch, with no serious discussion about how to stop it—aside from stuffing the Islamic Republic’s pockets with more cash.

Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

Hamas calls on Palestinians to confront Israel outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

FILE – Israelis wave national flags in front of Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City to mark Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday celebrating the capture of the Old City during the 1967 Mideast war, Sunday, May 29, 2022. The ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, called on Palestinians to confront a flag-waving parade planned by Jewish nationalists through the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hamas calls on Palestinians to confront Israeli victory parade in Jerusalem

Wed, May 17, 2023, 8:33 AM MDT

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The ruling Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday called on Palestinians to confront a flag-waving parade planned by Jewish nationalists through the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The comments by Hamas added to the already heightened tensions ahead of Thursday’s march and threatened to reignite fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, just days after a cease-fire took hold. Two years ago, an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas erupted during the annual march.

While Hamas stayed out of the latest round of fighting, officials with the ruling Islamic militant group urged Palestinians to oppose Thursday’s parade.

“We ask the people of Jerusalem to mobilize the masses to confront the march of the flags in Jerusalem tomorrow,” said Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas official in Gaza.

Hamas also urged Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and inside Israel to “clash with the occupation” and said it would hold a demonstration with Palestinian flags along Gaza’s heavily fortified frontier with Israel.

The parade is meant to mark “Jerusalem Day,” Israel’s annual celebration of its capture of east Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites, in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel considers the entire city to be its eternal capital. But the international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem, and the Palestinians claim the area as the capital of a future state.

In a speech marking Jerusalem Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has broken “new horizons” since capturing east Jerusalem.

“We are committed to safeguarding the security of Jerusalem, to ensuring its prosperity and to continuing its momentum,” he said. “We are also doing this against all of the threats around us.”

Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving blue and white Israeli flags and singing songs as they walk through the Muslim Quarter and toward the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Israelis describe the parade as a festive event. But in past years, it has been marred by anti-Arab racist chants and violence toward local Palestinians by some of the marchers.

Adding to the combustible atmosphere, large numbers of Jews are expected to visit Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site early Thursday before the parade.

The hilltop compound is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Jewish Temples, and is the holiest site in Judaism. Palestinians call it the Noble Sanctuary, and today it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Under longstanding agreements, Jews are permitted to visit the compound but not pray there. But an increase in such visits in recent years, along with scenes of some Jews quietly praying, have raised concerns among Palestinians that Israel is trying to alter the status quo — a charge Israel denies.

The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and often spill over into violence.

Chief Supt Yoram Segal, a senior police official in Jerusalem, said police would deploy some 2,500 officers on Thursday to ensure the day passes without violence.

“We are going to deal harshly with anyone who tries to disturb the peace,” he told reporters.

The march comes less than a week after Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza reached a cease-fire that ended five days of heavy fighting.

Hamas, the de facto government in Gaza responsible for the plight of the territory’s 2.3 million people, stayed out of the fighting, while Israel avoided attacking the militant group.

Reham Owda, an independent Gaza-based analyst, said that neither side appears interested in resuming cross-border violence.

“No one is interested in fierce escalation,” she said, but she said the parade could trigger “limited, symbolic” firing of rockets that could in turn spark Israeli airstrikes in retaliation.

If violence erupts in Jerusalem, Hamas could jump into the fray, as it did two years ago.

“The resistance is ready to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque and prevent the Judaization of Jerusalem,” al-Masri said.


Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Seismic Activity Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

QUAKE DATA | INTERACTIVE MAP | USER REPORTS | EARLIER QUAKES HERE | QUAKES IN THE US | QUAKES IN THE US | QUAKES IN THE US | NEW YORKReported seismic-like event (likely no quake): 32 km south of Richland, Oswego County, New York, USA, Tuesday, May 16, 2023 at 1:40 pm (GMT -4)

Reported seismic-like event (likely no quake): 32 km south of Richland, Oswego County, New York, USA, Tuesday, May 16, 2023 at 1:40 pm (GMT -4)

Updated: May 17, 2023 19:13 GMT – just now

16 May 17:51 UTC: First to report: VolcanoDiscovery after 11 minutes.

Earthquake details

Date & timeMay 16, 2023 17:40:21 UTC – 1 day 2 hours ago
Local time at epicenterTuesday, May 16, 2023 at 1:40 pm (GMT -4)
Magnitudeunknown (3?)
Depth10.0 km
Epicenter latitude / longitude43.28722°N / 76.14661°W
Antipode43.287°S / 103.853°E
Shaking intensityLight shaking
Felt1 report
Primary data sourceVolcanoDiscovery (User-reported shaking)
Nearby towns and cities0 km (0 mi) NW of Central Square (New York) (pop: 1,810) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
13 km (8 mi) N of Cicero (New York) (pop: 31,600) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
21 km (13 mi) NE of Columbia (New York) (pop: 7,770) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
22 km (14 mi) E of Fulton (New York) (pop: 11,600) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
27 km (17 mi) N of Syracuse (New York) (pop: 144,100) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
28 km (17 mi) NNE of Fairmount (pop: 10,200) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
35 km (22 mi) ESE of Chonaquen (New York) (pop: 17,800) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
52 km (32 mi) NE of Auburn (New York) (pop: 27,000) | Show on map | Quakes nearby
Weather at epicenter at time of quakeBroken Clouds  18.8°C (66 F), humidity: 47%, wind: 8 m/s (16 kts) from WSW